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Meet the Queens of Gusu’s Drag Race Season 5!

By QIN SU

Oh my god, we’re back again. 

Hot on the heels of the shocking finale of season 4, Gusu’s Drag Race is back, with perennial judge Lan Qiren, Gusu’s grumpiest shufu, and featuring the return of the grandmother of drag, Baoshan Sanren. 

And this season is already a promising one. Says Lan Qiren, “We’ve never had such a strong cast of refined, professional queens. It has the makings to be the greatest season of Drag Race yet.”

Big talk for the Emmy-award-winning show that has shot dozens of queens to fame, bringing drag to the mainstream.

“The mainstream may be taking notice, but there’s nothing mainstream about drag done right,” says co-host Baoshan Sanren. “Drag is about disobedience. It’s rebellious and anti-mainstream by its very definition, and we’ve got some queens this season with the chops to prove it.”

With all that to look forward to, let’s meet the Queens who’ve already captivated our judges.

XXY 

From: Kuizhou

A self-described horror Queen, XXY says she’s here to bring the darkness. 

Quote: “Everybody else can be pretty. I’m here to be disgusting. They can take the applause, I’m here for the retching.”

 

Peony Gold 

From: Lanling

Drag Mother of the Jin, Peony Gold is a Lanling queen through and through.

Say it with us friends: OPULENCE.

Quote: “Some people say it’s cheating if you buy your drag. I say, if you’ve got the money, why not use it to look great?”

 

Jinny Xun 

From: Lanling

Another Lanling Jin queen, Jinny Xun isn’t here to make friends. 

Quote: “It’s not about being good or bad. I’m here to make the world remember my name.”

 

The Little Mistress

From: Lanling

A young queen with something to prove, the Little Mistress might be inexperienced, but she’s a queen of the Bring Your Own Fans variety, amassing a huge social media following for her extravagant looks.

Quote: “Let the other queens count me out. They’re all idiots anyway.” 

 

Jiggy Stardust 

From: Lanling

That’s right, there are four—count them—FOUR queens from Lanling this season. But no one can claim that Jiggy Stardust got here on anyone’s coattails. This newest member of the Jin has been a staple of the Lanling drag scene for nearly a decade.

Quote: “You say ‘perfectionist’ like it’s a bad thing. I say, there’s no excuse for being a mess.”

 

Hanguang Jun 

From: Gusu

Hanguang Jun is a well-known name on the pageant circuit, with poise and beauty rivaled only by her sister—previous Drag Race competitor and runner-up Zewu Jun!

Hanguang Jun is a Lan queen, so you can count on her to deliver elegance on the runway. 

Quote: “Mn.”

 

Miss Jingyi 

From: Gusu

Miss Jingyi is another queen from the Lan drag family, although this queen says she’ll be delivering more than just glitter on the runway.

Quote: “I’m a Lan, so of course I know how to do the pageant stuff. I can walk a runway with the best of ‘em. But I’m a comedy queen at heart!”

 

Yuanna Wen 

From: Gusu

The third and final Lan queen of the season, we can already tell that Yuanna Wen has the stuff to prance right into our hearts.

Quote: “Of course I want to win! It’s right there in my name! But why not win some friends along the way?”

 

Sandu Shengshou 

From: Yunmeng

All hail Yunmeng’s dancing queen! A professional dancer who has toured around the world with a dazzling list of stars, Sandu Shengshou will be one to watch on the dance floor.

Quote: “I’m not afraid to lip sync, nobody here is going to out dance me. But I also don’t plan to be in the bottom.”

 

The Yiling Patriarch 

From: Yiling

Where to start with the Yiling Patriarch? This queen has already made waves with her public social media beef with the Wen and Jin. An underground queen making a name for herself in the club scene, the Yiling Patriarch refuses to be put in a box.

Quote: “I get asked all the time, why not the Yiling Matriarch? And to that I say: why can’t I be a queen and a patriarch? I’m here to fuck gender, and look good doing it.”

 

Fangela 

From: Qinghe

Despite being in the drag scene for over five years now, little is known about Fangela beyond her iconic fans and a penchant for knowing all the gossip.

Quote: “Who do I think is going to win? Oh, don’t ask me, I’m sure I don’t know.”

 

Minge Gay

From: Qinghe

The oldest queen of the bunch, Minge Gay is a veteran queen who has done it all.

Quote: “Any queen worth her salt should be able to sew, dance, act and run a show. These kids are out of their league.”

 

Sue Me

From: Moling

Formerly a Lan queen, Sue Me broke away to found her own drag family. Since, she’s been making a storm in the pageant scene, as renowned for drama as she is for her gowns.

Quote: “I’m just as glamorous as the next queen. Nobody had better look down on me!”

 

Zizi Green

From: Baling

Zizi Green wants to be known as a comedy queen, and whereas some of the other younger competitors might still be finding their way, this is one queen who knows her schtick.

Quote: “Maybe I am playing a character, but who’s to say that the character isn’t based off of me?”

 

Are you as excited as we are?

Season 5 of Gusu’s Drag Race premieres Friday at 8 PM on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by JinLinCO, parent company of JinLinTV.

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Chapter Text

Episode Summary

Season 5 premieres with 14 new queens vying for the crown and the title of Gusu’s Next Drag Superstar, along with a $100,000 cash prize! But first, they need to prove that they have what it takes with a spooktacular design challenge. Do these queens have the fashion chops to make it, or are they more Party City than Paris Fashion Week?

Episode Recap: Take Me Night Hunting, Henny!

By QIN SU

In the great tradition of Gusu’s Drag Race, season 5 kicks off with our new batch of queens making their werk room entrances, to much fanfare (literally, in some cases, we’re looking at you, Fangela!), and we already have some standouts!

Speaking of Fangela, we dare anyone to call this queen filler, as she wafts into the werk room: this queen has an aesthetic . “Fangela is here to fan the flames and drop some names!” she announces while wearing what appears to be a giant fan with a fan hat and dual-wielding a fan in either hand. 

What can we say? We’re a sucker for a queen who knows her schtick.

From there, we’re off to the races as queen after queen struts in and drops her intro line in an effort to make an impression and carve out space in the stacked roster.

Other standouts include veteran queens Jiggy Stardust, in a gravity-defying hat made entirely out of flowers—talk about making a statement —former professional dancer and all-around superstar Sandu Shengshou who wastes no time showing what she can do with a high kick into a split that’s enough to make your eyes water, and, of course, the eminent Hanguang Jun—slayer of the pageant scene and current face of KillQueen cosmetics.

But it’s not all just about the veterans! A bevvy of young queens have entered the arena, and they’re gonna make themselves known, including early frontrunners Yuanna Wen and the Little Mistress, both of whom strut into the werk room with an amount of polish and confidence that belies their years.

With introductions out of the way, Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren waste no time in announcing to the queens that the season will kickoff with a runway featuring two looks: Take Me to Church, and Take Me to the Club.

Peony Gold kills the runway in a pair of looks that scream designer, transforming from rich heiress at a royal wedding, to a human disco ball (but expensive) . In contrast, her Jin sister Jinny Xun nearly faceplants on the runway—both literally and metaphorically—making her runway debut in a sweater set followed by a little black dress that bordered on morose. 

But now, it’s time for the challenge. As if two runway looks wasn’t enough, Baoshan Sanren appears again before our queens—outside of a Spirit Halloween. Here, we learn, the queens’ are to grab supplies to make a runway-worthy look out of children’s halloween costumes. One sword fight and several cartloads of polyester later, they’re back to the werk room, and the construction begins. 

Several queens struggle to get their machines going, but a few immediately pull ahead: notably, Jiggy Stardust and Hanguang Jun pull together looks that wouldn’t be out of place at Paris Fashion week, and are awarded the top spots along with Yuanna Wen. Ultimately, Jiggy Stardust secures the win for the week. 

That leaves our bottom three: Jinny Xun, XXY, and Miss Jingyi. Miss Jingyi is called safe, and the first lip sync of the season begins. 

Our bottom two perform to Kill V. Maim by Grimes. In the end, Jinny Xun wins the chance to stay for another week, and XXY is the first queen to sashay away.

With one queen down and thirteen still standing, tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 2: The Meat is Spoiled. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

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Wei Ying stares at their reflection in the mirror and tugs their wig into place. The wig slips backward, a flyaway strand of hair hitting them in the eye.

“Fuck, I need to get rid of this one. Every time, I tell myself I’ll never wear it again, and then right back in the closet it goes.”

“Give it to me, babes, and I’ll burn it for you. You good to go?”

Wei Ying huffs, the strand blowing out of their face for the moment at least, and gathers their nerve. “Yeah,” Wei Ying says, straightening up and looping arms with Nie Huaisang. “Let’s do this thing.”

The bar is empty, as they emerge from the back room and make a beeline straight to the bar, but they can hear the crowd gathered at front, waiting for the doors to open. The bar staff has hidden away the glassware, swapped for disposable cups in anticipation. It’s the season premiere of season 5 of Gusu’s Drag Race, and they’re clearly expecting the crowd to get rowdy.

Near the door stands a cardboard cutout of the Yiling Patriarch and Fangela, their names emblazoned across the bottom. Wei Ying shudders. “I’m never going to get used to this.”

Nie Huaisang clicks her tongue at them sympathetically. “Babes, it’s the first night. You’ll be amazed what you can get used to,” she says as she follows, fanning the pair of them. 

Wei Ying sighs in gratitude and locks arms with Nie Huaisang. 

“Fuck, I should’ve powdered more. I’m sweating like a pig, my face is going to slide off.”

“Yeah, you’re already running,” Nie Huaisang says sympathetically, focusing the airstream on them. “I told you, you use too much creme. Powders are your friend for performing.” 

“Vodka sodas are also my friend,” Wei Ying says, dragging her towards the bar faster. “With ice.”

Nie Huaisang makes a skeptical sound, but allows herself to be led, ordering a highball and flirting with the bartender for good measure. It always helps to have the bar staff on your side. 

“Good news though,” she says conversationally as she walks over to the front of the room with Wei Ying to take a seat in the throne-like chairs arranged on the stage, facing a large silk screen. “It’s dark enough in here, no one will even see when your eyebrow finally makes its way down to your chin.”

Fans begin to pour into the bar half an hour later. Wei Ying and Nie Huaisang are already in position on stage, greeting the crowd and warming them up for the evening ahead. Wei Ying feels their stomach fluttering with nerves. They never get like this while performing—they love being on stage, usually. It feels natural, the way the light chases them as they perform. But this is different. Tonight isn’t a performance—not really—and they have no control over what’s about to happen.

They take a long drink from their vodka soda as the bar lights dim and the crowd cheers over the revving engine of the episode’s start.

“Buckle up,” Nie Huaisang whispers as she leans over to them, her voice amplified by the mic. “This is about to get a whole lot worse.”

––––

Wei Ying is beginning to feel a little queasy. This is … wow, this is not as easy as they’d thought it would be. Watching everybody on screen, delivering their one-liners as the editing team cuts in with sound effects is making them sweat. It’s only intros, but with each queen who struts in, it’s already becoming obvious that the production team has a perspective that they’re trying to get across. They already knew this, of course. They’ve seen the show, they know all about the fan conspiracies and drama regarding the Edits. But knowing and experiencing are two very different things. 

Nie Huaisang taps them with her fan, placing a hand over her mic. “If you’re gonna vomit, get out of shot of any cameras,” she whispers quietly enough that the mic misses it. “You don’t need that on YouTube.”

Wei Ying nods and sits up a little straighter. They can do this. It’s just a show, after all. They’re on stage and that means it’s time for work, not for having an existential meltdown about being perceived via semi-scripted reality television. 

Wei Ying puts on their game face and smiles widely, leaning over to elbow Nie Huaisang showily in the ribs, and sniggering. “You are so embarrassing, Fangela,” they hiss at her, waving at the screen where Fangela has just air kissed Sandu Shengshou like a French socialite. The audience laughs, and there’s a smattering of catcalls in response. 

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Nie Huaisang says loftily. “It’s called having class , Yiling. And if you think that’s embarrassing, just hang in there, babes. Your whole world is about to be rocked.”

Something about the way she says that makes Wei Ying’s stomach curl into itself with anxiety. She sounded … eager. Eager is not good. Wei Ying begins desperately to try to recall the rest of the episode, but it’s hard. It feels like a lifetime ago, the whole experience more dreamlike than real. God, why is their memory so shitty? To distract themself, they try to recall what they ate for breakfast that day. Cereal? Toast?

Toast. Definitely toast.

Probably.

The intros continue. Jiggy Stardust enters, wearing one of her signature hats—this one a gravity-defying number made entirely out of snow white peonies. “A lady always wears a hat!” she says with a wide dimpled smile. Sandu immediately rolls her eyes. 

“This asshole,” Sandu mutters, and Fangela merely flutters her fan in front of her face.

“Oh my god, she’s such a bitch,” Wei Ying snickers.

“That’s why we love her,” Nie Huaisang agrees.

The bar whoops in agreement, loyalty already won by the display of cattiness. Wei Ying can’t help but smile at that. If they like disagreeable and bitchy, then Sandu is going to be a fan favorite for sure. 

“And what about Jiggy?” Wei Ying prompts, a little evilly. 

Nie Huaisang whips her fan open, but otherwise looks undisturbed. “I don’t know her.”

––––

Wei Ying wishes there was a clock in the room, or some way for them to surreptitiously check the time on their phone. How can the intros be taking this long?

They hadn’t expected this to be a pleasant experience, exactly. But they hadn’t expected it to feel so interminably long either. Something about watching yourself on screen like this makes everything feel so much harder than it should. Wei Ying has, of course, watched video footage of their own performances before. But they know what that footage is going to look like. When a camera is pointed at you for hours and sliced down into mere ten second chunks and stitched back together, there’s no telling what the result will be. Their stomach swoops every time a new face comes on screen. It’s like riding a roller coaster blindfolded. Except where that would be exhilarating, this is only exhausting.

By the time Wei Ying appears on screen, their nerves already feel shot. Thankfully, their intro is largely glossed over—clearly, the producers had been unimpressed and had bigger fish to fry. Which, quite frankly, feels like a blessing in disguise. Wei Ying lets out a breath of relief, until they notice that Nie Huaisang’s fan has sped up, her eyes darting over to them at intervals now. 

Wei Ying's heartbeat picks up speed. They fidget in their seat, trying to recall what would have Nie Huiasang so excited. Nie Mingjue enters next. Wei Ying wonders if Nie Huaisang is just excited to see her sister, but the sideways glances don’t stop, until—

“Oh,” Wei Ying exhales as Lan Zhan walks into the werk room, and the gathered crowd gasps in appreciation. 

The thing is, Wei Ying didn’t forget this. How could they? Lan Zhan—Hanguang Jun—is  unforgettable. 

She enters the room with the weight and dignity of royalty. She’s wearing intricate robes, multiple layers, each gossamer thin—a whisper of the secret of her shape beneath. They float from her shoulders, skimming her narrow hips as she walks with a flutter of silk. She raises her arms in front of herself, the dramatic bell sleeves like blue waterfalls crashing to the floor as she bows silently.  

Wei Ying’s mouth feels dry as they watch, their heart hammering harder than ever as they recall what happens next and hopes against hope that it won’t make it into the cut.

A fruitless hope. 

Hanguang Jun walks over to the work table without a word and takes a seat beside Minge Gay, nodding her head in recognition. Before Minge Gay can reply, though, Yiling has rushed over and inserted themself between them. “Hiya!” she says, smiling broadly. “I’m the Yiling Patriarch! But you, beautiful, can call me daddy.”

The bar erupts into laughter and jeers, heads whipping back to look at Wei Ying where they sit on the throne in delight. Wei Ying resists the urge to sink through the floor—they’re pretty sure they could manage it right now if they gave in. 

On screen, Hanguang Jun fixes them with an unimpressed look. “Shameless,” she says, her voice low and rich and even now Wei Ying can feel their toes curling.

“Oh if you all like that, you’ll love what’s coming,” Nie Huaisang announces to the room, igniting excited, speculative chatter. 

“Fangela!” Wei Ying cries, not even needing to exaggerate their embarrassment for the crowd. “I thought we were friends!”

Nie Huaisang brings her fan up to cover her mouth and winks showily over the top. “There are no friends in Drag Race, Yiling.”

Unfortunately, things only go downhill from there. 

Wei Ying watches in horror as the camera tracks Wei Ying as they all but latch themself, limpet-like, to an increasingly perturbed LanZhan through the rest of the episode, cutting to confessionals shots of Wei Ying—(“Look, I know I’m supposed to be here to win drag race or whatever, but I’d consider it worth the crown just to see Hanguang Jun ruffled. Can you imagine? It would be glorious.”)—interspersed with shots from Lan Zhan’s own silent testimonials, his face stony and unreadable. 

It comes to a head as Baoshan Sanren reveals their maxi challenge for the final runway, as she leads them to a deserted Spirit Halloween. “You have fifteen minutes to grab whatever you need to make your final look,” she declares, before firing the metaphorical starting pistol.

Looking back, even now, Wei Ying thinks maybe they are not solely to blame for this. They weren’t the one who had chosen to unleash a group of sleep-deprived, anxiety-riddled adults who dress up in costumes for a living on a Halloween store and told them to go nuts. Anyone should have predicted that maybe things would get chaotic. So it really seems unfair when Lan Zhan glares up at them where they’ve scaled one of the display racks to snag a pair of prop swords from the top shelf and hisses something about “the rules”.

“The rules?” Yiling calls back down to him, and laughs. “You cannot—are you serious?” When Hanguang Jun says nothing in return but continues to glare, Yiling only laughs harder. “Alright then,” they say, and then pull themself up all the way onto the shelf, stretching out like a cat. “I’ll just be part of the display then. One life-sized, sexy goth theyfriend. Limited edition, but it’s your lucky day, Hanguang Jun. I’m available, and look—” they hold out their bounty “—this one comes with two swords.”

Wei Ying resists the urge to bury their face in their hands. The crowd is loving this, though, so they endure, trying their best to summon a sly grin, as though this isn’t causing them pain to watch. 

Hanguang Jun does not appear to be loving it. Rather, he reaches up and yanks one of the swords out of Yiling’s hand with such force that they go flying from the shelf.

“Oof!” Yiling gasps as they go careening into Hanguang Jun and end up sprawled on top of him on the floor, one hand crushed beneath his head where they had instinctively reached out to keep him from braining himself on the tile. “Hanguang Jun, you okay?” Yiling asks anxiously, pulling back to look at him. Then, a grin slides across their face and they bite their lip, seeming to consider their words, before a huff of laughter escapes. “You know, if you wanted to see what it was like to be under me, all you had to do was ask!”

Hanguang Jun does not join in Yiling’s laughter. Yiling gives a squeak of surprise as he sits up suddenly and they are dumped from his lap. “Childish,” he says in his serious voice, which, of course, only makes the Yiling Patriarch laugh again.

“Childish, you say?” they repeat, scrambling to their feet and holding their remaining sword out in an en garde stance. “Those are fighting words, you swilly cur! Have at thee!” 

They swipe the sword in a dramatic arc for Hanguang Jun’s head, who raises the sword he is still clutching in his hand to meet it. The Yiling Patriarch steps into his guard to meet Hanguang Jun chest to chest, thankful to have found an actual use for all those Wudang lessons Auntie Yu made them take as a kid. 

Hanguang Jun stares down at them, face impassive, but Yiling thinks they catch a spark blazing behind the golden walls of his eyes. The next moment, Hanguang Jun steps back, dropping the sword to the floor. “Childish,” he says again, like Caesar at the colosseum sentencing a gladiator to death, and walks away.

“Oh god ,” Wei Ying moans quietly, sinking into their seat. Their amplified anguish is pumped through the speakers and met with tittering approval from the crowd. “Why am I like this?”

“Because you have the memory and self awareness of a goldfish and are allergic to behaving yourself,” Nie Huaisang answers.

“Just you wait until you do something embarrassing on-screen,” Wei Ying snipes back.

Nie Huaisang turns to them now, wearing a sympathetic smile. “Aw sweety,” she says, reaching out and tapping their hand consolingly with her fan, “some of us actually remembered that there were cameras.”

––––

The most that can be said for the rest of the evening, is that at least the worst of it is over. There aren’t any surprises for the rest of the episode, as far as Wei Ying is concerned. There are some scenes showing their attempts to distract Lan Zhan during Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren’s walkthrough before the final runway and a small scuffle with XXY over some black patent leather, but otherwise the camera is done with them for the episode, turning its attention instead to the upcoming tops and bottoms.

Jiggy Stardust’s crowning as the top queen of the week is well-deserved, in Wei Ying’s opinion, as is XXY and Jinny Xun’s spot in the bottom two. As the pair perform to Kill V. Maim by Grimes, though, Wei Ying frowns. They turn to Nie Huaisang. “Why isn’t the camera showing XXY at all?”

Nie Huaisang shrugs one shoulder at them, fan fluttering. 

“Wow, that’s bullshit,” Wei Ying declares as they strike their final poses. “Look, I’m not saying XXY did great or anything, but we barely even got to see her. Is the camera person in love with Jinny Xun or something? I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”

The crowd laughs, but Nie Huaisang snakes a hand over to their leg and pinches. “Careful,” she whispers, quietly enough that the microphone misses it. Wei Ying scowls, not sure why they have to be careful at this point, but lets it go. 

It’s been a long night.

––––

By the time the episode is over, Wei Ying’s ribs hurt from sitting in a cinched corset for an hour, their head is pounding from the noise, and they desperately need to pee. 

They wave to the crowd, making some parting remarks—thanking them for coming out, reminding them to tune in next week, and more of that sort—before ducking backstage with Nie Huaisang.

“You survived,” Nie Huaisang says. “I told you you’d make it.”

“Barely,” Wei Ying replies. “I can’t believe we’ve got to go through another ten weeks of that.”

“Eleven,” Nie Huaisang corrects. “You forgot the reunion and the finale episode.” 

“Ehhhhhhhhh,” Wei Ying whines. “I’m not gonna make it. I quit, I’m hanging up my wig and quitting drag. I’ll move out to the country, live a quiet life on a farm somewhere.”

Nie Huaisang snorts. “You’d get run out with a pitchfork if you even tried to stop for gas.”

“I don’t think you’re grasping just how remote this farm would be. I’m talking, the boonies. Middle of nowhere, just me and some chickens and a crop of … uh, radishes?”

“I give it one week before you’re so lonely you lose it and start talking to dead people.”

“Dead people are great conversationalists,” Wei Ying retorts. “Lots of stories.”

“Uh-huh, that spooky shit doesn’t work on me, darling,” Nie Huaisang says, waving her fan at them in reprimand. “You forget who put you in your first wig. I knew you when you were just some shitty little teen with bacne and braces. Are you coming to the after party?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely not,” Wei Ying says primly. “I am going home, de-dragging, showering, and sleeping for a hundred years.”

“Your loss,” Nie Huaisang says. “A bunch of the other queens will be there.”

A frisson of interest goes through Wei Ying at that. They school their face, trying carefully to maintain an affectation of disinterest. 

“Oh? Like who?”

Nie Huaisang smirks, quirking an eyebrow at them, clearly seeing right through them. 

“I see. So my company wasn’t enticing enough?”

Wei Ying rolls their eyes. “I see you all the time , Nie-xiong–”

“Ew, don’t ‘-xiong’ me in drag!” She whacks them on the shoulder with her fan, with a surprising amount of force.

Wei Ying winces, rubbing the spot on impact. “Sorry, Nie-jie.”

“Apology accepted, this time. Anyway, it’s gonna be the kids—Yuanna Wen, Zizi, Little Mistress, Miss Jingyi—”

“– I love that kid—”

“And Sandu.”

“Nuh-uh,” Wei Ying says quickly. “Sandu does not want me there.”

Nie Huaisang frowns and purses her lips. “A-Ying, that’s not—”

“Another time,” Wei Ying interrupts. “I’m too tired tonight.”

“Fine,” Nie Huaisang relents, “but I’m holding you to it.”

“Sure,” Wei Ying says, grabbing their bag from the backroom locker. “You do that. You have fun. Be safe, drink responsibly.”

“Fuck you, no promises,” Nie Huaisang says, pressing a kiss to their cheek and leaving behind a messy splotch of pink. “Night, babes.”

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The bar is blessedly close to home. The downside to this sort of gig, Wei Ying laments, is the lack of cash tips. Sure, the bar paid well enough for the appearance, but a nice paycheck doesn’t make up for a lack of bills in hand when it comes to getting home that same evening. Without cash for a cab, Wei Ying is left to choose between public transit, or making their way home by foot. Not particularly feeling like sitting in the bright lights of the bus and dealing with strangers, Wei Ying swaps into sneakers and hoofs it back to their apartment.

It’s early enough that the streets aren’t overly busy. People are still mostly at home, pregaming for their Friday evening, so they’re able to make the trek with minimum disturbance beyond a handful of men making the expected catcalls. Wei Ying ignores them and is up the four flights of stairs unlocking the rusty lock to their apartment twenty minutes later.

The musty smell that wafts out when they open the door is unpleasant: a mildewy odor that is probably unhealthy. Jiang Cheng had said as much when he visited—the one time he’d visited before the show had blown up things between them. Nonetheless, Wei Ying can’t help but sag with relief. It may not be luxury, but it is, for all its faults, home. 

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Sing a Song of Comeuppance: GSDR S5E1 Watch Through

Now that sure is one way to kickoff a season. Gusu’s Drag Race wasn’t fucking around when it came to our new batch of queens (although some of them can surely fuck off). 

After watching through ep 1 last night, this little songbird has a tune to sing for you. Like, first off, you know I’m not one to get too bogged down in The Edits, but. Can we talk?

You’d be forgiven for thinking this season was a single family season, based on the camera time spent on the Jins and Jin accessories (*polite cough* Jiggy Stardust). Yuanna Wen was a top queen this week, but do you even know what she was wearing? Because I couldn’t tell you, and I have the episode pulled up right now. 

Favoritism is rampant every season, of course, but after this first ep it seems to have less to do with the judges picking their champions, and more to do with a family name. But, what do I know? I’m just a little birdy who's stuck paying for the premium streaming package for JinLinTV and WEN1, since I apparently forgot to cancel the latter after last year’s … kerfuffle. 

So what have we learned?

Let’s recap!

First, we’ve got a lot of Jins this season, and they might be banding together in the werk room. Jiggy Stardust, newbie Jin and the winner of the first ep, pulled it off while spending an inordinate amount of time helping Peony Gold with her outfit. Peony might be gorgeous, but I’m not sure she’s long for this show if she can’t even start her own sewing machine and burns herself every time she touches a hot glue gun. The Little Mistress received similar treatment—that is, until Sandu Shengshou, apparently fueled by hitherto unforeseen maternal instincts, inserted herself into the situation and started screaming at the young queen about learning to do things herself. What followed was a thorough, instructive, and very loud tutorial on how to use a zipper foot. ( Imagine , zippers on the runway? What are you trying to prove, Sandu?)

Well. Speaking of gorgeous queens with something to prove … let’s talk about it:

Hanguang Jun and the Yiling Patriarch.

Friends, we all saw it. Is it love? Is it hate? Is it enemies to lovers? Is it enemies AND lovers? I’m not here to start building any ships and setting sail (who am I kidding? I’m an expert deck swabber 😜🍆), but the T E N S I O N. The C H E M I S T R Y. Sure, Hanguang Jun looked like she might want to hit Yiling a couple times, or glue their lips closed, but like ... in a sexy way? Hanguang Jun doesn’t usually look like she wants to do anything, so it has to count for something . As for Yiling … well. Let’s just say, I think Yiling was down for being shut up, in whatever way our flawless Hanguang Jun saw fit.

I’d pay good money to see what went down behind the scenes—but apparently the good money I am paying doesn’t include the after show specials ( WINK ). Instead, we were treated to a lip sync between obvious filler queens XXY and Jinny Xun, and, honestly, they could both sashay away and the show might be better for it. A certain Fatherly Figure seems to agree, based on some comments overheard at a recent watch party expressing distaste for the Jin queen and the amount of screentime she was given.

No arguments here. Jinny Xun has an intense case of ‘thinks she’s the main character’. Has nobody told her? Her attempts to bait and barb the other queens missed the mark for sass and instead just fell squarely in the ‘mean-spirited and over it’ category. Good luck to her in the future if she chooses to turn that venom on someone who gives a shit. I’m already making popcorn in my heart for the day she tries it with Sandu or Minge Gay. 

I take it back. Come on, Jinny, I am here for you to fuck around and find out.

And on the note of fucking around.

Below are my Season 5 Ships, and I’m ready to set them asea.

Hanguang Jun/Yiling Patriarch
Yuanna Wen/Zizi Green
Little Mistress/Miss Jingyi
Jiggy Stardust/Minge Gay
Peony Gold/Sandu Shengshou

I am not taking any feedback at this time.

Until next week, my canaries.

~Songbird

————

103 LIKES | 22 COMMENTS

singalingasongalong
jiggy definitely deserved her win but lets not sleep on hanguang jun. a queen!

        fans4fans
        ppl only like hgj cuz shes pretty and thin. If she was a big queen yall wouldnt even be looking. One word:
        B O R I N G

               singalingasongalong
                boring? she made an entire fucking ballgown from plastic bags. What were you watching?

                        fans4fans
                        Sue me did the same and she didn’t even get a nod. 

                               hatorade_sipper
                                R u srsly comparing sue me to hgj?
                               


                lemonlover
                Haters have too much time on their hands 💅

                [5 more comments]

zewoooo_joon
OMG YES THE CHEMISSSTRY THIS SEASON! The sexual tension in the werkroom is so thick

__see__no__evil__
Sad to see XXY go so soon! Seemed way more interesting than jinny xun. I love a spooky queen! At least weve still got yiling

        shufu_is_my_daddy
        Yiling is just a dollar store knockoff of song lan from season 2

                __see__no__evil__
                uhhhhh except yiling is actually funny? sl looked like she was gonna barf every time she had to talk

goldengege
Wait what happened last season? What “kerfuffle”?

        lemonlover
        lmao were u under a rock?

        shufu_is_my_daddy
        found the token straight in chat
               

        singalingasongalong
         https://lltimes.com/section/businesswen-one-top-executive-suspended%2C-on-trial.html There was a huge scandal with WEN1’s head of network. Turns out he’d been involved in insider trading and threatening government officials into looking the other way as he slowly bought up other corporations and began building a monopoly. Apparently there was some internal whistleblower. Details were locked down in some settlement, but it [...]

                lemonlover
                Yea and don’t forget the nepotism and shit.  Chaos Wendy (last year’s winner) was Wen Ruohan’s nephew or something. whole family is crooked. 

                        wen2wen  
                        Wendy didn’t have anything to do with it though. She was the best queen, people just can’t handle that because she wasn’t all sugar and spice to everyone. Go drink your hater juice somewhere else.

––––

Aired Footage

Fangela enters the werk room, arms spread wide, wafting a pair of silk fans in either hand, dressed in a resplendent gown, with a pleated fan crumb catcher, a floor-length pleated circle skirt, and a fan headpiece stuck into an elaborate black updo. She strikes a dramatic pose.  

“Fangela is here to fan the flames and drop some names!”

––––

Confessional

Fangela (Nie Huaisang): “I’m Fangela, I’m 26-years-old, of the House of Nie. Why do I want to be Gusu’s Next Drag Superstar?” She thwacks her fan open and smiles at the camera. “Don’t ask me, I’m sure I don’t know.”

––––

Fangela clacks over to the work table in the neon-colored room and takes a seat. “First one—and here I always make a point to be fashionably late.”

She settles in to watch the door, waiting to see who will enter next.

The next queen walks in a serpentine purple bodysuit with spikes protruding from the shoulders, arms, and matching headpiece. She wears an orange, shoulder-length wig and dramatic, glittery purple stage makeup.

“I’m here to break some legs.”

––––

Confessional

Sandu Shengshou (Jiang Cheng): “I’m Sandu Shengshou, aka Sandu. Sandu is a dancer first and a Drag Queen second. These other queens might have the look, but I’ve got the moves.

––––

“Sandu!” Fangela cries happily, running over to meet her friend halfway with a hug, smacking her in the face with her fan fascinator. 

“Watch it!” Sandu snarls. “Did you not hear me? I will break your legs.”

Fangela titters as they walk back to the table together. 

The Little Mistress skips into the room, shaking a pair of gold and purple pom poms that match her vintage cheer sweater and skirt. Sandu and Fangela share a look over the table. 

––––

Confessional

Sandu Shengshou (Jiang Cheng): “What is this child doing here? Toddlers and Tiaras is down the hall.”

––––

The Little Mistress tosses her pom poms to the side revealing a set of 5-inch long golden nails with hoop piercings. “These are spirit fingers, and these are gold,” she says into the camera, wiggling her fingers so the jewelry sparkles.

“Only gold she’ll be getting,” Fangela whispers behind her fan to Sandu, who snickers. 

Mistress frowns at them, clearly having heard, and sits at the far end of the table, crossing her arms in a pout. 

––––

Confessional

The Little Mistress (Jin Ling): “I’m used to people underestimating me. Let them. I’ll prove them wrong.”

––––

The next queen rounds the corner to a collective, “Ooo.” She’s wearing what is clearly a designer gown: floor length gold, off the shoulder, trimmed in voluptuous ostrich feathers, with teased honey blonde hair and gold beauty makeup.  “Sometimes all that glitters is gold,” she simpers. 

“Oh, it’s a woman,” Sandu says, voice dripping with disdain. Mistress shoots her a venomous look as the queen approaches the table and takes a seat next to her drag daughter. 

“You wish you were half the woman Peony Gold is!” Mistress hisses at Sandu. Peony Gold shifts uncomfortably next to her, choosing not to respond.

––––

Confessional

Peony Gold (Jin Zixuan): “My name is Peony Gold, Mother of Jin. Jin is all about elegance, refinement, and pageantry. There’s nothing understated about being Jin. We look expensive because we are expensive.”

––––

Loud footsteps interrupt the chatter, and a queen in a gold singlet with dozens of circular cutouts, wearing an expression like she’s mad to be there, rounds the corner, her big curly wig bouncing as she stomps into the room in a pair of platform thigh highs. 

“Do you like holes? Cause I’ve got a hundred.”

Fangela’s fan flies up to her mouth quickly, hiding whatever expression she’s making as Sandu sneers with apparent distaste.

–––

Confessional

Fangela (Nie Huaisang): “Was somebody putting out cigarettes on her outfit?”

––––

Confessional

Jinny Xun (Jin Zixun): “My name is Jinny Xun, and these bitches better watch out. I’m not here to make friends.”

––––

Jinny forces herself into a seat between Peony Gold and the Little Mistress. Little Mistress scowls at her, but says nothing. “Hi Peony,” Jinny says, ignoring the rest of the table and tossing her hair over her shoulder, barely missing smacking Mistress in the face. “Good to see they have at least one other queen here who knows what she’s doing.”

“What is it that you’re doing?” Sandu snaps in response. “Cosplaying as swiss cheese?

Jinny shoots a venomous glare at Sandu, who responds in kind. The Little Mistress sinks in her chair between them, fixing her own glare on the table. 

“Oo, the pageant is starting,” Fangela says, breaking the tension as the next queen walks slowly into the room in a beaded blue and white gown with a sculpted black updo.

She walks with exaggerated elegance, her hands held aloft at her sides as she sways her hips in a wide arc, stopping on her mark and giving a theatrical spin.

“Oh, are you gagging? So Sue Me.”

––––

Confessional

Sue Me (Su She): “My name is Sue Me, I’m 28-years-old, founder of the great drag house of Moling Su! I’m here to prove that you don’t need to be one of the great five to be great!”

––––

Confessional

The Little Mistress (Jin Ling): “It’s not even a good pun.”

––––

The next queen struts in, balancing on pencil-thin heels with ease. She wears an unremarkable short yellow mini dress, topped with a gravity-defying hat made entirely out of snow white peonies. 

“A lady always wears a hat!” she says with a wide dimpled smile. 

“This asshole,” Sandu mutters. Fangela flutters her fan.

––––

Confessional

Jiggy Stardust (Jin Guangyao): “My name is Jiggy Stardust, from the house of Jin. Yes, I am formerly a member of the House of Nie. You could say, I get around.”

––––

Confessional

Fangela (Nie Huaisang): “What do I think about Jiggy Stardust? Oh I don’t know. I’m sure I don’t think about her at all.”

––––

The pace of queens entering the werk room is picking up now, as they file in and join the crowd around the table to watch each entrance.

“Boo, bitches!” someone shouts, spiking the sound levels before they even round the corner.

 

A queen wearing a black slip dress and a witch’s hat walks in. Her face is countered heavily with black and she wears black sclera contacts. 

“I know it’s Halloween, but I didn’t know we were hitting Party City first,” Su Me says in a carrying voice.

XXY flips her off and takes a seat next to Jiggy Stardust without even pausing to vamp for the camera.

––––

Confessional

XXY (Xue Yang): What do I have to say to these other queens? Fuck em.

––––

“Is this where they’re filming Gusu’s best Friends Race?”

A young queen enters wearing a knee length powder blue leather coat dress, cinched at the waist with a caged hip pannier silhouette and an exaggerated blonde beehive with a pair of angular sunglasses. 

“Yuanna Wen!” Little Mistress breathes in relief, and the new queen waves to her happily.

–––-

Confessional

Yuanna Wen (Wen Yuan): “I’m Wen Yuan! I’m 18, from the House of Lan. I know it’s a competition, but I always say, kill’em with kindness!” They smile at the camera. “No, really. I’m gonna walk all over these other queens.”

––––

The next queen walks into the room with a sinuous walk, hips rolling in a skin-tight, seamless black latex bodysuit with a neckline plunging to her navel. She is bald, wearing a crown constructed of what appear to be swords. Fangela squeaks with excitement beside Sandu, who appears to be struggling to hide a smile in her scowl.

The new queen reaches up and pricks a finger on her sword crown, making a display out of sucking the finger as though injured.

“Anybody got a sword I can ride?”

––––

Confessional

Wei Ying (Yiling Patriarch): I’m the Yiling Patriarch, and joke’s on them. A real queen brings her own sword wherever she goes.

––––

Yiling Patriarch breaks her pose with a loud laugh, and skips over to the table, wrapping up Fangela and Sandu in a hug. “We made it, girls!” she cries. 

“Get off of me!” Sandu says, shoving her away. “You’re flattening my spikes.”

“Aw, Sandu, you’re still plenty spiky. Promise.”

She lets go, and then runs over to the Little Mistress and scoops her into an unwilling hug as well. “And if it isn’t my favorite little niece! How’s my baby doing? Are they feeding you enough? You’re so thin! Let Aunty Patriarch take care of you.”

“I’m not your niece!” Little Mistress yelps, attempting fruitlessly to extract herself from Yiling’s hug. “We did one show together!”

“And I taught you everything you know!” Yiling says fondly. “Look at you now. All grown up and on Drag Race! I’m so proud.”

“You’re messing up her wig,” Peony Gold says haughtily leaning forward to look at Yiling around Jinny. 

The camera cuts to the entryway again, as another queen rounds the corner. She’s tall, ducking to avoid the lintel as she walks into the room, whacking a massive pannier on the frame as she enters. Her Rococo skirt sways violently as she comes to a halt, thwacks open an elaborate fan, bringing a hand up to check her towering updo. “How’s my head?”

“No complaints!” Jiggy Stardust yells, to a smattering of laughter. 

–––– 

Confessional

Nie Mingjue (Minge Gay): I’m Minge Gay. Yes, I know the name is terrible, but sometimes you can’t cut loose your past mistakes.

––––

Minge Gay shoulders her way in between Fangela and and Jiggy Stardust, smiling down—way down, they’re both several heads shorter than her—at them. “I like your fan, da-jie.” Fangela grins back up at her. “Stealing my bit?”

“You don’t own fans , Fangela.”

“How dare you! It’s right there in the name!”

“Is this it?” Sue Me asks impatiently. “We’ve already got enough cannon fodder.”

Yiling Patriarch and Sandu exchange a look, as a quiet tap of heels portends the arrival of the next queen.

She enters silently, moving almost as though she is floating, with only a delicate clack of heels beneath her skirts. She is wearing layers of white silk robes embroidered in blue and silver clouds, matched perfectly by the silver ornaments pinned to her hair and frosted makeup. She lifts her arms in a ring in front of her, revealing dramatic bell sleeves that trail to the floor, and bows. 

“Holy shit,” Yiling whispers, eyes glued to the new queen, mouth slightly open. 

Beside them, Yuanna Wen waves at the new queen as she rises from her bow. There’s a softening of the space between her eyes as she nods in return.

––––

Confessional

Lan Zhan (Hanguang Jun) sits silently, avoiding eye contact with the camera and says nothing.

––––

Hanguang Jun approaches the table, but mostly keeps her distance. The other queens watch her, as though waiting for her to speak. She says nothing. 

“Well, don’t just stand there!” Yiling shouts suddenly, jumping to their feet and running over to her. “Sit down already! Aren’t you hot? How many layers do you have on? Geez, I’ve barely got on one and I’m melting. Of course, it is basically like I’ve wrapped myself in a second skin made of rubber that absolutely does not breathe, but still.” Yiling grabs Hanguang Jun’s arm and hauls her towards the table. “Holy shit, is that real silk? Ah!”

Hanguang Jun wrenches her arm free. Yiling throws their hands up, looking startled and embarrassed. “Right!” they say. “Sorry, you probably don’t want my grubby garbage fingers dirtying up the silk. Brave, to wear white.”

Hanguang Jun’s frown deepens. Her lips part slightly, as though to say something, when a loud laugh cuts her off.

A blur of sparkling green rockets into the room, missing the mark on the floor by several feet before skidding to a stop with a spin. A queen bedecked in green rhinestones from head to toe holds her arms aloft and announces, with extreme enthusiasm, “I’m here to get that green!”

––––

Confessional

Ouyang Zizhen (Zizi Green): “Hi, my name is Zizi Green, and I’m gonna make these queens green with envy! Can I say that? Oh my god, why did I say that? I hate me.”

––––

“Zizi!” Yuanna Wen waves to her. Zizi Green squeaks happily and skates over to her, too quickly, colliding with Yuanna Wen, who only remains upright thanks to a helping hand from Hanguang Jun.

“Skates?” Yuanna Wen asks.

Zizi Green laughs sheepishly. “I wanted to make an impression!”

“We’re all suitably impressed that you haven’t biffed it,” Yiling Patriarch laughs. “Now sit before you break something.”

“This has gotta be it, right?” Sue Me asks yet again, frowning at Zizi. “This is getting redundant.”

“Says the discount bin Hanguang Jun,” Fangela hisses sotto voce to Minge Gay who raises a quelling eyebrow at her, even as the corner of her mouth tug into a smile. 

“I think there’s one more,” Jiggy Stardust says, turning toward the entryway again where the sound of laughter spills out. 

Seconds later, a queen rounds the corner. She’s wearing a white leotard with high cut legs, ‘TWISTED’ splashed across the front in colorful bubble graffiti, and a blue pussy cat wig that is styled in random spikes, giving the impression that she has stuck her finger in a socket.

“Let’s get twisted, bitches!” she says and then death drops to the floor.

––––

Confessional

Lan Jingyi (Miss Jingyi): “I’m Miss Jingyi—so named because my mom picked a good one, and why scrap all her hard work?”

––––

Miss Jingyi gets back to her feet slowly, teetering on a pair of 6-inch platforms. She’s all teeth as she smiles at the table, before turning suddenly bright red. “Oh my god,” she whispers. Then, louder, “Oh. My. GOD. Hanguang Jun?”

“Hello, Miss Jingyi.”

“Holy shit. Holy shit . I can’t believe—Sizh– I mean, Yuanna Wen, it’s Hanguang Jun!”

Yuanna Wen nods. Fangela, face hidden behind her fan, lenas over and whispers something to Yiling Patriarch, who laughs loudly. Miss Jingyi looks like she might faint. 

“Why are the rest of us even here?” Miss Jingyi cries. “Just give her the crown.”

“That’s the fighting spirit,” Minge Gay says, rolling her eyes.

“You can leave if you want,” Jinny Xun says. 

“Nope!” Miss Jingyi rushes over to the table at last, inserting herself in the only space at the Little Mistress’s right. The Little Mistress scowls as Miss Jingyi leans over the table to continue staring at Hanguang Jun. 

“Stop fangirling and close your mouth,” she says. “You’re embarrassing.”

Miss Jingyi’s eyes snap to Little Mistress. “Oh, jealous, Princess?”

“It’s the Little Mistress .”

Miss Jingyi blinks. “Wait, no. Stop it, seriously?”

The Little Mistress opens her mouth to reply, but she’s cut off by an alarm. 

The game has begun.

––––

Unaired Footage

Wei Ying comes into view, knocking over a stool that is out of frame. They jump forward to catch it, causing their lapel mic to come loose. They grap at it before it falls, causing the sound to spike once. 

“Whoa!” someone yells off frame in surprise. 

Wei Ying looks up quickly, then quickly releases the mic, realizing what’s happened. “Ah, sorry, sorry! Wasn’t thinking. I’m just a little keyed up. How is this scarier than the whole runway thing?”

Somebody answers them, too quiet to be heard. Wei Ying laughs and shakes their head. “No, I’m fine! My sister says I’m not supposed to drink on the show. Well, what she actually said was, ‘A-Ying, sometimes when you’re drinking you’re very honest?’

More voices off camera. Wei Ying laughs harder. “See, that’s what I said! But apparently there’s such a thing as ‘too honest’ .” They make finger quotes around the last words, grinning bashfully. “Tea? Tea would be great though.” A hand appears, passing over a steaming mug. Wei Ying takes it, eyes wide with surprise. “Oh—thanks! Uh, I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name. I’m shit at names, and for the last week everyone I’ve met has two. Kerry? Thanks, Kerry!” 

They take a sip of the tea. “Oh, is this cinnamon tea? Alright, that’s it. You’re my new best friend.”

––––

Lan Zhan is sitting before the camera, back straight. The camera zooms out to get all of him in frame. 

“We’re just going to show you some footage, and then ask you some questions about what’s happening. Just answer honestly, don’t feel pressured to be funny.”

“I do not feel pressured.”

“Good. Okay, ready?”

“Mn.”

Lan Zhan focuses on something off-screen, watching impassively. His face doesn’t change, before he looks back up. 

“What were you thinking in this scene? Were you nervous about the challenge?”

“No.”

“Not at all? That’s a tall order, making a look out of nothing but cheap halloween props!”

“It was achievable.”

“O….kay. Okay, that’s fine, that’s fine. How about this next part?”

Lan Zhan looks back at the offscreen monitor. For a moment, it looks as though a muscle jumps in his cheek, but it passes quickly.

“What do you think about the Yiling Patriarch?”

Lan Zhan looks back to the camera. “Ridiculous.”

“Ah, good, good. Can you repeat the question in your answer, though? It makes it easier to edit. Their behavior was pretty over the top. Does it make you wonder what they’re even doing here?”

Lan Zhan says nothing. 

“Would you say, she’s not taking the competition seriously?”

Lan Zhan blinks. “I would not say that they are not taking the competition seriously,” Lan Zhan says. “They applied themselves diligently in creating their garment, and the final look was acceptable.”

––––

“– and that’s the story of how I got this scar on my ass!” Wei Ying pulls the waistband of their jeans down low enough to see the top curve of their backside, where a crescent shaped scar can be seen. “And I’ll never let Jiang Cheng forget it! He’s in next, right? If you really want to get him going, ask him about it.”

Laughter offscreen, followed by several sharp claps, louder, closer to the microphone. “Focus!” someone yells, a slight laugh in their voice. “Sorry, Wei Ying, but we’ve got a lot of queens to get through still.”

“Sorry! Yeah, let’s get this over with. What’s next?”

A pause as they watch footage. A blush can be seen creeping up the back of their neck. They scrunch their face in discomfort several times before turning back around in their seat to face the camera. “That looks so much worse on film,” they proclaim.

“You seemed like you were really trying to get a rise out of Hanguang Jun,” the voice says. “Is it because she’s a threat and you wanted to throw her off her game?”

Wei Ying gives a startled laugh. “You think I could throw Hanguang Jun off her game? She’s unflappable! Unthrowable!” They shake their head, and start over. “I was trying to get a rise out of Hanguang Jun because she’s so…strict. About what drag is. I maybe just wanted to mess with her a little, since I’m basically her worst nightmare: a genderqueer queen who doesn’t do beauty and doesn’t even try to look like a woman. It’s nothing like her drag. 

“Still, is she a threat? Of course she’s a threat. A little boring, but absolutely a threat. Look at her. She’s beautiful.”

––––

 

 

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

Come for the dancing, stay for the drama! This week, our queens are challenged to dance, sing, and twerk the house down, but as the queens divide into teams to hit the runway, it’s the drama offstage that has our queens shook.

It’s a cool Thursday morning, much earlier than Wei Ying is usually awake, let alone venturing out into the over-bright and overbusy world. Commuters bustle to their offices in their stiff business attire, heads down, faces pinched as they power walk down the sidewalk. Wei Ying receives the occasional brusque grunt or scowl as they move at their own sleepy pace to the small cafe on the corner. 

They push their shoulder into the door—it always sticks—and a bell chimes overhead announcing their entrance. 

It’s busier than usual with the morning rush, but the Starbucks across the street has siphoned most of the commuters. Wei Ying thinks they should feel bad about that, but they can’t quite manage it. They like the semi-exclusive vibes that the quaint cafe fosters. It’s why they’ve made it their regular hangout, although they usually save their trip for the other side of noon. 

Wei Ying casts a quick look over the tables and spots Wen Ning waving to them with a shy smile from a seat in the back, Wen Qing drowsily sipping from a mug across from him. Wei Ying returns the smile and bonds up to him, falling into the chair beside him and throwing an arm around his shoulders, causing Wen Ning to spill some of this latte. “Good morning, sunshine!” Wei Ying enthuses. 

“No,” Wen Qing says. “We are not doing that.”

Wei Ying only smiles wider. 

“Rough night?” Wei Ying asks. He grabs Wen Ning’s mug from where he’s placed it on the table and takes a gulp. Then, splutters, crinkling their nose. Pumpkin spice. Sweet, basic Wen Ning. 

“Long night,” Wen Qing answers. “How does somebody get to be a pop star without being able to handle an 8-count? An 8-count . I spent 2 hours trying to remind an adult that 8 comes after seven.”

Wei Ying makes a sympathetic noise, then takes another sip of Wen Ning's drink, scowling again. Wen Qing glares, reaching across the table and pulling the mug from their hands. “Get your own, leech.”

“Qing-jie!” WeiYing protests. “A-Ning doesn’t mind! Do you, A-Ning?”

“I don’t mind—” Wen Ning begins.

“A-Ning, we talked about this,” Wen Qing interrupts. 

Wen Ning looks pained, lowering his eyes to the tabletop. 

“Come on,” Wen Qing insists, firm but not unkind.

Wen Ning gulps. “Please don’t drink my coffee.”

Wei Ying swallows their startled laugh at a sharp look from Wen Qing. “Of course, A-Ning. I’m sorry. I’ll go get my own.”

They stand, then give into the overwhelming compulsion to drop a kiss to the top of Wen Ning’s head. “Good job, buddy.”

Wen Ning squirms, but nods. Wei Ying wants to wrap him up in their arms and coo a little longer, but Wen Qing orders them to get going before the line gets longer before they can. “And drop this early bird act before you come back here,” she snaps at their retreating back. “I cannot deal with you being this chipper, this early in the morning.”

Wei Ying resolves to push through the vestiges of their typical morning funk by the time they get back to the table. They’ll drag Wen Qing into the day kicking and screaming, if they have to, just for the hell of it. 

Wei Ying returns to the table five minutes later clutching a mug of extra strong americano—it took some bargaining with the new barista to convince them that, yes, they did want 5 shots of espresso—and wearing a smile ratcheted up a few hundred megawatts. Wen Qing glares at them harder, but Wei Ying pretends not to notice. 

"Are you excited for the show tomorrow?" Wen Ning asks as Wei Ying takes their seat. "I wish I could go to the watch party, but …"

Wei Ying waves it off. "They're not that fun,” they insist. "And we wouldn't have the chance to talk anyway, because I'm too busy pretending like watching my face projected to a size where my pores are caverns and that listening to my dumbass trying to be funny isn't a particularly cruel punishment for evil deeds in a past life."

"Still," Wen Ning says. "I want to support you."

Wei Ying smiles at that, a little sadly. They know how much Wen Ning wants to be there for them, and it makes them feel a little guilty to know that Wen Ning feels like he’s letting them down. But Wen Ning can’t help that he can’t handle crowds. After what he’s been through, Wei Ying certainly doesn’t blame him, and they don’t want him feeling like he has to force his way through his own discomfort. He’s made so much progress in the last year, and Wei Ying isn’t going to let that crumble because of some stupid watch party. “Hey, don’t worry about it!” they say loudly. “We’ll celebrate on our own terms, without a bunch of sweaty strangers trying to edge in on it. It’d be more fun that way anyway!”

“I’d like that,” Wen Ning says. “Maybe we could have people over?” he directs this toward Wen Qing. “Just a few friends?”

“Sure,” she says. “We’ve got space for at least a few people.”

Wen Ning turns back to Wei Ying, excitement dancing in his eyes. “Maybe at the halfway point? Do you keep in touch with anyone from the show?”

“Nie Huaisang, mostly,” they say, “since we were friends before the show and he’s local. And Ouyang Zizhen. He’s not close, but he’s a good kid. Messages me a lot about doing a show together. I’ve tried to stay in contact with all the kids, actually.”

Wen Ning nods eagerly, but Wen Qing frowns at them, her mouth a tight line. “And are you and Jiang Cheng still being idiots, then?”

Wei Ying, mid-sip, chokes on their coffee. “Hey!” they protest.

Wen Qing shoots them an unimpressed look, resolutely not stepping back from the question.

“...we haven’t spoken,” Wei Ying admits. “Not since the show.”

“Idiots,” Wen Qing declares with authority.

Wen Ning fidgets uncomfortably in his seat at the tension that has descended over the table. “What about Hanguang Jun?” he asks, trying to force them past the moment. 

It takes all of Wei Ying’s resolve not to choke again. “What about him?”

Wen Ning blinks, confused. “Oh … do– do you not talk?”

Wei Ying covers the strange, knotted up feeling in their stomach with a laugh. It’s … probably a little too loud, based on the look Wen Qing is giving them, but he thinks they can be forgiven for being a little unbalanced this once. “Why would Lan Zhan want to talk to me?” Wei Ying asks, their heart thumping hollow beats like a drum. “He hates me! You’ve seen the show, A-Ning, he can’t stand me!”

Wen Ning looks confused, eyes darting over to Wen Qing, who just shakes her head. “Idiots.”

Wei Ying thinks that is undeserved, but they’re more interested in ending this particular vein of conversation than they are in defending themself, so they pivot, throwing the attention off of them. “So what has my favorite sibling duo been up to? Being gay, doing crimes?”

“Half right,” Wen Qing passes a handful of sugar packs to Wei Ying out of habit, which they immediately tear into, pouring an indiscriminate amount into their drink. 

“A-Ning!” Wei Ying gasps in mock horror, “you can’t! You’re too pretty to go to jail!”

Wen Ning chuckles, turning red as he stares down into his mug. “Actually, there’s something I wanted to tell you.”

“Oh? Are you on the run from the law? Do you need a safehouse to hide away? I’m in a studio, A-Ning, but we’ll make it work. You can have the couch! I’ll have to buy a couch, but you can definitely have it!”

“Can you shut up for two seconds?” Wen Qing interrupts. “If you’d stop running your mouth, you’d see that he’s trying to tell you something.”

Wei Ying’s mouth snaps shut, and they notice Wen Ning’s fingers clenching nervously around his mug. “Ah, sorry,” Wei Ying says. “Sorry, A-Ning. What is it you wanted to say?”

Wen Ning takes a shaky breath in, lets it out slowly. “I wanted to tell you that I … I’m um. What you said.”

Wei Ying lets the joking retort about Wen Ning’s criminal undertakings die on their tongue as they put together what this moment is. “Oh,” Wei Ying says, brain spinning up all servers. They can’t be going into this conversation without all their resources online. “Thank you for telling me, A-Ning. Do you want to talk about it?”

Wen Qing reaches across the table and takes Wen Ning’s hand, squeezing it reassuringly. Wei Ying really, really loves them. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I do.”

––––

He’d met Wen Qing at an underground drag rave about a decade back. He’d gone with Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng—Jiang Yanli being the only one of them of age who’d talked their way in, and then kept them strictly under her big-sister-thumb. “Stay by me, and don’t drink anything anyone gives to you,” she’d ordered. 

It was a wide warehouse space, with a makeshift stage separated off by reflective tape that glowed under the blacklights. The crowd pulsated to the pounding club music as they waited for the show to start, drinking from red cups as a heavy haze of weed settled over them.

Wei Ying had, of course, managed to get lost within thirty minutes, and found themself behind a curtain operating as a backstage for the drag performers to get ready. They wove amongst the performers, who were too distracted in their application of glitter and sewing up last minute wardrobe malfunctions to spare any attention for the wide-eyed teenager who’d worked their way into the throng.

That was, except for Wen Qing. “Who’re you?” she’d snapped, striding up to them and crossing her arms. “I know you’re not a performer, so don’t try it.”

“I could be,” Wei Ying said, eyes following one of the performers who was now stretching in a corner, lowering themself into the splits slowly. “I’m not, but I could be. I’m a great dancer.”

Wen Qing snorted and rolled her eyes. “You got the wrong week, kid. The Glee casting call was last week.”

Wei Ying scowled at her, suppressing their laugh. “You’re not much older than me,” they’d countered.

“I’m old enough to be here,” Wen Qing said, “and I’m pretty sure that’s more than you can say.”

“Are you a performer?” Wei Ying asked. If she was, she’d have to have some spectacular moves or something. She was dressed in the plainest outfit he’d ever seen—head to toe black with hardly even a seam to be seen. 

“Stage manager,” she’d said. “And as stage manager, I’m gonna have to ask you to manage your way out of here.”

“Cute,” Wei Ying said. “Alright, alright, I’m going.”

They turned to head back out into the main area of the club, but before they could a hand clamped down on their arm. Wei Ying turned and saw Wen Qing frowning at him, eyebrows knitted in concern. 

“Are you here alone?”

“No, I came with my siblings. We just got separated, but I can find them.”

“No,” Wen Qing said, yanking him back behind the curtain. “I’ll help you find them, but you are not going back out there alone.”

True to her word, Wen Qing has kept Wei Ying at her side as she called the show, pulling performers on and off stage, helping track down missing shows, queuing up songs in the sound system. Wei Ying helped where they could, acting as a gofer for the performers, who invited them into their fold with enthusiasm. 

“This is some fancy shit,” one of the kings enthused. “A stage manager and an assistant? Usually it’s just me handing my ancient iPod over to the sound booth and hoping for the best.”

“Qing-jie runs a tight ship,” Wei Ying said—largely baseless, but feeling confident in the proclamation nonetheless. 

"Final song!" Wen Qing called, "Everyone get out there, let's get this done."

The king clapped Wei Ying on the shoulder, added a final layer of body shimmer, and headed for the stage.

"Ready?" someone asked over Wei Yings shoulder. They turned to see a tall performer, dressed in a mirrored, mullet-cut gown in white with a towering gloves headpiece encrusted with rhinestones: something not far off from a human disco ball. 

"I'm not a performer!" Wei Ying said quickly, backing away. 

The performer merely smiled down at them. "Did you come to dance?" they asked. "Then come dance. You worked hard, you earned it."

Wei Ying shot a questioning glance at Wen Qing, who merely shrugged, then made a shooing gesture at them. 

Wei Ying smiled so wide, they thought their face might split. "Alright," they said, accepting some of the gloss this glittering beacon of drag handed to him. "Let's do this!"

Episode Recap: The Meat is Spoiled!

By QIN SU

“You aren’t qualified to feel disgusted by me,” greets the queens as they file into the werk room the morning after the first elimination, XXY’s lipstick farewell.

Jinny Xun wipes it away quickly, and before the queens can spend too long pondering that one, the Gu-Mail arrives, and it’s time for the mini challenge.

Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren enter and just like that the episode is full throttle, as the queens compete in the first ever drag race Werk it, Twerk it contest. Each queen shows what she’s got, but it’s Sandu Shengsou who takes the win with her surprisingly athletic twerk moves. 

Baoshan Sanren then let’s Sandu know that she and last week’s bottom queen Jinny Xun will be captaining teams for this week’s maxi challenge: a singing, dancing, lip syncing spectacular titled “I Don’t Know Her.”

Teams are chosen by each queen picking the next. Sandu ends up with Yiling Patriarch, Fangela, Minge Gay, Jiggy Stardust, Sue Me, and Zizi Green. Jinny Xun’s team consists of Peony Gold, Little Mistress, Yuanna Wen, Miss Jingyi, and Hanguang Jun. 

“This is our chance to get to know you,” Lan Qiren instructs the queens. “So make sure you make an impression.”

It becomes clear early on, though, that while many of the queens are on track to make an impression, it may not be a good one. The Yiling Patriarch and Miss Jingyi breeze through writing their lyrics, but the Little Mistress, Minge Gay and Peony Gold struggle with the assignment. 

When it comes to dancing, both teams encounter challenges. Sandu Shengshou is an accomplished dancer and choreographer, and Jinny Xun’s team boasts former professional ballet dancer Hanguang Jun, but other queens struggle to keep up, even with the assistance of guest judge, celebrity choreographer Wen Qing.

The final performance is a nail biter. Both teams work up until the last minute to get the performances into shape, but there are big misses on both sides. Peony Gold forgets the words to her rap partway through, along with an on-stage collision between the Little Mistress and Jinny Xun. Meanwhile, Minge Gay’s wig goes flying mid-feature. On the other end, Sandu Shengshou and Hanguang Jun deliver outstanding performances that have the judges shouting. 

Final runway category is Dance the House Down. Yuanna Wen pulls out a showstopper with a replica of Madonna’s dress from her performance of Vogue at the 1990 VMAs. It’s been a strong night all around for the young queen, in fact, which the judges acknowledge. 

However, it’s a team challenge, and Sandu Shengshou’s team takes the win, with Sandu Shengshou herself nabbing the top spot. 

On the losing team, Yuanna Wen, Hanguang Jun and Jinny Xun are called safe, leaving Miss Jingyi, the Little Mistress and Peony Gold in the bottom three. In the end, Miss Jingyi is safe, and Peony Gold and the Little Mistress must lip sync for their lives to Dancing Queen by ABBA. 

The Little Mistress dances her heart out, putting to use everything she learned that week, while Peony Gold struggles to perform in her heavy gown, ultimately resulting in her elimination. 

That’s one more queen who has sashayed, with twelve still standing. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 3: They Call Her the Triple Threat. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

The Sound of Sabotage: GSDR S5E2 Watch Through

“This is the true story of thirteen strangers picked to live in a hotel, work together, and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”

Okay, wrong show, but one could be forgiven for making the mistake.

Season 5 of drag Race is turning out to be a real cast of heroes and villains, with Hanguang Jun and our baby queens (that is, Zizi Green, Miss Jingyi, Yuanna Wen, and even the endearingly surly Little Mistress) squarely in the heroes camp, and Sue Me and Jinny Xun heading the villains battalion. 

As for the rest of our queens?

The jury’s still out on Sandu Shengshou, whose natural antagonism seems to be more of a nervous habit than a malicious streak. Dearly departed Peony Gold was primed to have a mid-season image overhaul, had her time not been cut short. 

Meanwhile, Fangela and Minge Gay are Switzerland in this brewing conflict—minus the Nazi overtones. 

But Songbird, you may be saying now. What of Jiggy Stardust and the Yiling Patriarch?

A good question, little larks. One I look forward to seeing unfold as the season continues.

For now, let’s look at the facts, as portrayed to us by the GSDR producers.

Fact the first: the Yiling Patriarch can twerk . “Songbird, what does that have to do with anything?” 

Not much, I admit, but in my experience no force of evil has cheeks that clap that hard. Case and point: Jinny Xun’s disastrous attempt at twerking that would have embarrassed even a tequila-sloshed white girl at karaoke night. 

Hanguang Jun clearly agrees with my assessment, if the way she was practically frothing at Yiling is anything to go by. I’m not saying Sandu didn’t deserve the mini-challenge win—I’m not arguing with (or complaining about) with tall, dark and angry’s skills. 

Now onto Jiggy. Here is where things got complicated.

It’s clear from the intros an episode back that there’s some kind of history between Jiggy Stardust and Minge Gay. The producers (or perhaps the queens themselves) haven’t seen fit to elaborate yet, but the flirting is out of control. Which makes it all the stranger when things around them start to go so wrong

First, can we talk about that lift? Minge Gay is no slouch when it comes to hitting the gym, clearly. I’ve never seen those sorts of guns on a queen before, and you don’t get them without commitment. And Jiggy probably weighs about the same as a purse poodle. And yet, when it came time to execute, Minge Gay doesn’t manage to get Jiggy more than a foot off the floor. You can see from Minge Gay’s face that something has gone wrong—which is definitely strange, as we saw them perform the lift perfectly throughout practice.

Then … okay, the elephant in the room. Can we talk about Minge Gay’s outfit? Had she asked any of her teammates, I know in my heart they would have never let her walk out in knee length bubblegum pink fringe and those biscuit heels. (With the exception of Sue Me, who is the human embodiment of douchebaggery). Jiggy, who has already shown herself to be a queen of good taste, lied through her teeth when she told Minge Gay she looked good. 

Was it the white lie of a … uh … “friend”? Or darlings … is it sabotage?

It’s lucky for Mine Gay that Sandu Shengshou’s team was stacked with dancers—save for Minge Gay and Zizi Green, bless—thus saving her from the bottom two.

Speaking of, this Songbird, for one, will be sad to see Peony go. She may have been filler, but she was pretty filler. The Little Mistress won that lip sync fair and square, but, to be frank, she never should’ve been up against her mommy dearest in the first place.

Yes, we’re all looking at you and that tacky ass hoop skirt, Jinny Xun. 

In any case, it’s all pure speculation for now. Come back next week for more aspersions on the character of the Jin family and that good, good conspiracy theory you love so much. 

Until next week, my canaries.

~Songbird

––––

122 LIKES | 40 COMMENTS

Aired Footage

Wen Qing claps out an eight count for the queens. Hanguang Jun turns a perfect pirouette as her team spins behind her, Peony Gold falling out of her turn and stumbling into Yuanna Wen. 

“Are you okay?” Yuanna Wen asks, catching her before she hits the floor. 

Peony Gold flushes, scurries back to her feet and yanks her arm out of Yuanna Wen’s grip. “I’m fine. I don’t need you worrying about me.”

“Hey!” Miss Jingyi shouts. “She was just helping!”

“Jingyi,” Hanguang Jun cuts in, her voice even and carrying a hint of reprimand. “Focus.”

Miss Jingyi spares a scowl for Peony, who steadfastly refuses to look at her. Little Mistress catches the scowl, and returns it in kind. 

“Alright, try it again,” Wen Qing says. “Peony, brace your core more. Keep your shoulders over your hips.”

“I know how to do it,” Peony retorts, glaring down at her feet as though they are to blame for her struggle. 

“Then do it,” Jingyi mutters under her breath. 

“Don’t talk to her like that!” Little Mistress shouts, leaving her position to stalk up to Miss Jingyi. “She’s trying!”

“Is she?” Miss Jingyi shouts back, heating up at once. “Because it looks to me like both of you just give up when things get hard!”

“Jingyi—” Yuanna Wen tries, but Miss Jigyi plows ahead. 

“This is a team! We’ve all got to do our part, or we all fail!”

“If our success depends on you, then we’ve already lost.”

“You Jins are all the same–”

“–Jingyi–”

“–think you’re better than everyone else. Think you can do no wrong. Think you’re the end all be all of drag, like you’re the whole damn meal.”

“Says the appetizer. We’re the main course!”

“Then the meat is spoiled!”

“Enough.”

Hanguang Jun walks between the bickering queens, drawn up to her full height and glaring down at them. “Return to your positions.”

Miss Jingyi huffs in frustration but complies, her face bright red with anger or embarrassment. Little Mistress looks like she wants to argue, but Yuanna Wen shakes her head slightly. Little Mistress shrugs in frustration and walks back to her position.

“Oh, are we done?” Wen Qing says casually from where she’s taken a seat beside the stage. “Got it out of your system?” she asks, receiving answering nods. “Good. Peony, like I said, core tight. Hanguang Jun, demonstrate please. Everyone else, pay close attention.”

––––

“No, stop, this isn’t working,” Sue Me interrupts, waving her hands and walking to the front of the runway. “It’s too basic. Are we trying to bore the judges to death? We need to be more interesting.”

Sandu crosses her arms tight over her chest. “What do you recommend then?” she demands.

“Why not do something balletic? Let’s bring a little class, a little culture.”

“No one here is a ballet dancer,” Yiling points out. 

“Speak for yourself,” Sue Me says. “I trained at the Gusu Academy of dance.”

“I thought you got kicked out,” Sandu says.

Fangela snorts, but quickly hides it behind her hand, her signature fan set aside for the performance. 

“Only because they had it out for me,” Sue Me says.

––––

Confessional

Sue Me (Su She): “I danced at Gusu Academy for a year. I was on track to become the principal dancer, until one of the other dancers started spreading rumors about my sexuality.” He pauses and sniffs, dabbing at his eyes with a tissue, though they appear to be dry. “They drove me out for being gay. It was devastating. I gave everything to dance. But I can’t let it hold me back.”

––––

“I think Sue Me’s right,” Jiggy pipes up. “We should do more. Have a big start, then let it build to the end.”

Sandu squeezes her eyes shut and brings a hand to her temple. “So your solution to choreographing for a mixed group, some of whom have no dance experience,” she grits out, “is to start big, and then get bigger?”

“We don’t need to be complicated to put on a good show,” Minge Gay interjects. “I say we keep the moves simple, but we make them showy. I’m not a dancer, but I can pick up choreography, as long as you don’t expect me to do any splits.”

“Why should we be penalized just because you aren’t flexible?” Sue Me asks haughtily. “Everyone else here did the work to get there before the show.”

“I can’t do the splits,” Zizi Green says, turning to Sandu anxiously. “Is that a problem? I tried, I really did, but I just can’t—”

“Enough!” Sandu yells. “I’m the team leader. I’m the professional dancer. I’m the one who runs a fucking dance school. No!” she points a finger at Sue Me, who has opened her mouth to say something. “Shut up! Just everyone shut up and listen!”

Silence descends over the stage, interspersed with comically chirping crickets.

“Sandu?” Yiling says quietly. “What about a lift?”

“What?” Sandu bites out, then stops with a thinking expression. “Lifts. We’ve got the perfect team for it. Minge Gay and I are definitely strong enough. And–” she gives the other queens a once over, “Zizi, how’s your strength?”

“Maybe you didn’t hear me,” Sue Me says, “I was going to be principle–”

“Good,” Zizi says. “I’ve got seven sisters. Like, actual sisters. I’ve been lifting them over my head since we were kids.”

“Alright,” Sandu says, her tone brisk, authoritative. “Wei Ying, Huai–Fangela, and Jiggy, are you good with being lifted?”

“Oh, Minge Gay knows I am,” Jiggy replies, turning a dimple towards her. 

“Gross, I don’t want to know,” Sandu says. “Fine. Minge Gay and Jiggy. Zizi, Fangela’s the smallest anyway. Since you’re less experienced, you should lift her. And I’ll take fat ass here.”

“Excuse you, my ass prefers to be referred to as thicc.”

“And what about me?” Sue Me complains. Crossing her arms and stamping her foot. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Suffer,” Yiling whispers under her breath, earning a giggle from Fangela.

“You’re the almost-principal from Gusu Academy,” Sandu says, turning her back on Sue Me. “You figure it out.”

––––

Unaired Footage

“A-Ling, are you okay?” the Yiling Patriarch asks, voice pitched low enough to be just barely audible over the mic. 

“I’m fine.” The Little Mistress sniffles and discreetly wipes her nose on her sleeve.

“You did great out there. It’ll be okay.”

“Shut up. Leave me alone.”

––––

“You seemed really shaken up by Peony Gold’s elimination. What were you thinking?”

Jin Ling ducks their head, hiding their face from the camera. “Who was shaken up? It’s fine. I won, didn’t I?”

“Were you close to Peony?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Their hands fidget in their lap, twisting at a plastic water bottle that crackles loudly in the microphone. “It’s Drag Race. There’s no alliances here. You’re either good and you stay, or you’re not.”

“Do you think Peony was good enough to stay?”

“Why do you want to keep talking about her?” Jin Ling sits up straight and glowers into the camera. “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

“Of course. You two just seemed close.”

“Well … yeah, I guess we were. She … we knew each other. Know each other.”

There’s a long pause, and Jin Ling begins to fidget again. “It’s just. She was the first one to put me in drag. She helped me out when I was just getting started. Everyone thinks she’s … she’s stuck up, or something. That she doesn’t care about people. And it’s stupid! A-Ni– I mean, Peony is–” Jin Ling takes a deep breath, twisting the bottle around loudly again. “She was the closest thing to a mother I ever had.”

BREAKING: WEN1 CEO Wen Ruohan Under Charged with Insider Trading

Insider trading charges were officially filed on Monday against three former WEN1 executives, including CEO Wen Ruohan. These come on the heels of the whirlwind scandal involving the corporation and CEO, including allegations of abuse brought forth by employees and family members. 

These newest charges raise questions about the corporation’s future, and have re-energized discussions of the potential merger between WEN1 and JinLinCo. The merger has been speculated for months, but has been met with criticism from both the FTC and the Congress. 

When asked about the merger, Representative Lauren Greenblatt, who heads The House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, had this to say on the matter: “Any consolidation or merger of two media giants of the size of WEN1 and JinLinCo will need to be thoroughly examined. We have laws against monopolies in this country, and it seems to me that a corporation of the size and power that would result from such a merger would create an unfair, noncompetitive landscape in media.’

It has yet to be seen whether the latest charges will bring the supposed merger to a halt. 

We reached out to WEN1 representative Wen Xu, but he refused to comment directly on the charges, saying only that WEN1 would cooperate with any investigation. 

*LLNews is a subsidiary network of JinLinC

––––

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

Lights, cameras—ACTION! For their big acting debut, the queens are challenged to chew the scenery by overacting in the classic Gusu’s Drag Race Drama: Grandmistress of Dramatic Extravagation! Featuring guest judge Jiang Yanli, star of the award-winning drama Yunmeng ER.

Episode Recap: They Call her the Triple Treat

by Qin Su

It’s a somber return to the werk room for the queens the day after elimination as they read  Peony Gold’s parting words, “Don’t back down, girls! Keep on digging deep, and you’ll be sure to strike GOLD.”

Let’s hope they’re ready to make good on those words, as Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren arrive to announce that, for this week’s mini challenge, they’ll be participating in a wet look photoshoot—complete with a slip and slide runway. 

Sue Me squeaks by with a win, thanks to a well-executed somersault recovery after her inevitable fall, securing a spot as team lead alongside mini challenge runner-up the Yiling Patriarch. Unfortunately for the Yiling Patriarch, second place doesn’t come with a shiny prize—Sue Me wins the privilege of picking her entire team, leaving the Yiling Patriarch with the leftovers. Sue Me, in a surprise move given her fraught history with Gusu Academy, selects the Lan family lineup (Hanguang Jun, Yuanna Wen, and Miss Jingyi), along with queens Jiggy Stardust and Sandu Shengshou, who have been performing well. This leave the Yiling Patriarch with Jinny Xun, Zizi Green, the Little Mistress, Fangela and Minge Gay.

Roles assigned, the teams get to work practicing for their dramatic debut in the pilot (and sole) episode of the new soap spectacular, The Grandmistress of Dramatic Extravagation. 

All seems to be going well enough for both teams—Sue Me team is stacked with well-trained performers with plenty of acting experience. Yuanna Wen, in particular, shines, come filming day.

The Yiling Patriarch’s team, dubbed “The Leftovers”, is less seasoned on the whole, but benefits greatly from Minge Gay’s experience and the Yiling Patriarch’s patient tutelage of younger queen Zizi Green and the Little Mistress.

Come showtime, though, it becomes clear that the Yiling Patriarch is struggling. Even with Jiang Yanli’s guidance, the Yiling Patriarch forgets her lines and leaves her team in a lurch. 

This week’s runway in Danxia Realness, and it’s clear that the queens are pulling out all the stops. Yuanna Wen steals the show in a red and orange hanfu with an exaggerated silhouette and a wig sculpted into a dragon head.

Sue Me’s team is announced as the winners, and are all safe. Yuanna Wen, to no one’s surprise, takes the top spot, with the judges declaring her to be a Triple Threat.

On the losing team, Fangela, Minge Gay and the Little Mistress are safe, leaving the Yiling Patriarch, Jinny Xun and Zizi Green in the bottom three. Zizi Green’s performance was too amateur, the judges say, as she focused on her fellow actors more than her own performance. Then there’s the Yiling Patriarch who kept forgetting her lines, and Jinny Xun who was just forgettable. 

Zizi Green is eventually announced to be safe, but is sent to stand with the other queens with a warning: Bottom Three isn’t going to cut it. With that, the Yiling Patriarch and Jinny Xun must lip sync for their lives to Royals by Lorde. 

In a stunning performance that will certainly go down in Drag Race history, the Yiling Patriarch comes out triumphant, and Jinny Xun is left to sashay away.

Eleven queens remain. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 4: Back to Basics (Bitches). Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

“What do you mean you can’t come tonight?” 

“Just what I said, Wei-xiong,” Nie Huaisang replied with a slight whine. “I can’t make it. I’ve got to go back to Qinghe. It’s an emergency, or you know I wouldn’t abandon you like this.”

“Do I?” Wei Ying retorts, a little unfairly. Nie Huaisang isn’t what they’d call a reliable friend, but he also doesn’t deserve that kind of venom. If he’s backing out of a gig, there’s a reason. Whether it’s a good reason or not isn’t really Wei Ying’s call. “Sorry,” they say automatically and shake their head, clutching their phone tighter. “Sorry, I’m just. Tonight’s episode—”

“I know,” Nie Huaisang says sympathetically. “I know, Wei-xiong, I just can’t—”

“It’s fine. Of course it’s fine. I’ve done solo shows before. It’s no big deal.”

“But you won’t be solo!” Nie Huaisang says quickly. “Didn’t I say? I meant to say. I’ve got someone to fill in.”

That makes Wei Ying stop, surprised. 

“Really? Who?” 

Who would be available at the last minute to fill in Nie Huaisang’s seat, and save Wei Ying from enduring the embarrassment of the night ahead alone?

“A certain friend of ours from Gusu is fleeting their way to you on a train as we speak,” Nie Huaisang says. “Seems their show got canceled, so they were available.”

“You’re gonna have to be more specific, Huaisang,” Wei Ying said, their stomach a mass of butterflies. “We have more than one friend in Gusu.”

“Are you hoping for anyone in particular, Wei-xiong?” Nie Huaisang asks innocently. There’s a faint thwack on his end of the line, indicating he’s opened his fan—purely out of habit, no doubt, seeing as how he doesn’t currently have an audience.

“Huaisang–” Wei Ying groans irritably. 

Nie Huaisang titters. “Fine, fine. It’s Wen Yuan—our little baby Yuanna Wen, the best Lan.”

“You say that about all the Lans,” Wei Ying returns, feeling a little guilty over their disappointment. They adore Wen Yuan, and it’s not fair to them. They’re excited to see Wen Yuan, in fact. It’s been months—since airing ended. It’ll be good to catch up.

“That’s because all the Lans are talented and gorgeous and basically perfect,” Nie Huaisang says. “Although some may be more perfect. Lan Huan was visiting Qinghe just last week. Da-ge and I were facetiming, and Huan-ge walked past wearing only a towel and—”

“Huaisang, please stop drooling over your brother’s boyfriend. It’s too weird,” Wei Ying groans. 

“I thought you were supposed to be shameless,” Huaisang says lightly. “Are you telling me you’ve never looked at any of A-Cheng’s lovers?”

“Ew, god, don’t say lovers and A-Cheng in the same sentence, I am literally begging you. And, no. Although, as far as I know, Jiang Cheng’s never had a … never actually dated anyone.”

That earns them a startled exclamation. “What, really? With a face like that?”

Wei Ying shrugs, though Nie Huaisang can’t see it. “I don’t know if he’s actually interested in—you know. Sex.”

“Wei Ying,” Nie Huaisang says with exasperation, “you are so clueless, you’re a danger to yourself.”

“What does that mean?”

“I mean, Jiang Cheng could not have been any more obvious in salivating over Jin Zixuan for the entire four weeks they locked us away in that fucking compound.”

Wei Ying wretched involuntarily. “Huaisang, that is literally disgusting . First off, Jiang Cheng hates that peacock. Second off, Jin Zixuan hates Jiang Cheng. There was definitely not any salivating .”

“Love and hate are often two sides of the same coin,” Nie Huaisang says, a shrug evident in his voice. “You flip a coin enough, it’s going to land on the other face at some point. And you know, Zixuan didn’t look all that uninterested.”

“I’m hanging up now,” Wei Ying announces. “Before my skin actually crawls off of my skeleton. Bye, Huaisang. Have fun in abandoning me.”

“Bye, babes,” Huaisang says back in a singsong. “Try not to let on to Wen Yuan how disappointed you are they’re not Lan Z—”

Wei Ying hangs up.

––––

“A-Yuan!” Wei Ying cries out, using their affectionate nickname for their young friend. “Look at you! You’ve grown since the last time I saw you! You’re so tall! How rude, getting even taller and more handsome when your mother isn’t looking!”

Wen Yuan chuckles and returns the hug Wei Ying has wrapped them in. “A-Niang is sweet to say so,” he says, eyes twinkling.

Wei Ying reels back and clutches dramatically at their chest. “Careful! Saying sweet things is dangerous for a heart as old as mine! You’ll kill me if you keep that up, and matricide is not very girl power.”

“Noted,” Wen Yuan says earnestly. “How’ve you been, Wei-qianbei?”

A flush of pleased warmth washes over Wei Ying, and they loop an arm around Wen Yuan’s shoulders, taking one of their bags with the other. “Shit,” Wei Ying answers with a smile. “We’re only on episode three and I’m ready for this to be over.”

“We still have the finale,” Wen Yuan says.

Wei Ying groans. “Please, don’t remind me. If I could, I’d go back in the past and smack myself for ever signing up.”

“I’m glad I did it,” Wen Yuan says as they wait for their car to arrive. “I like the Gusu drag scene, I know it’s supposed to be the best,” they reach up and take their ponytail in their hand, twisting it around their fist, “but it was good for me to meet people outside of the family. To see other styles, what other people are doing.” 

“Gusu is good at what it does,” Wei Ying agrees, “but it really only does the one thing.”

Wen Yuan turns to Wei Ying and smiles. “You should visit Gusu again sometime,” they say. “I think you’d be surprised. Things are changing.”

––––

Wei Ying loves Nie Huaisang. They really do. Nie Huaisang is one of their oldest friends, and is really great.

That said, they are so grateful to have Wen Yuan at their side tonight. Her presence is much … well, nicer than Fangela’s, which is needed, given the circumstances.

“Zizi Green, you are safe,” Lan Qiren’s voice echoes through the club, to a chorus of gasps. “That means, Yiling Patriarch, you are in the bottom 2.”

Heads swivel from the screen to look at Wei Ying where they sit on that stupid throne. They affix a mysterious smile to their face, trying not to give anything away. Wen Yuan, noticing, makes a grab for attention. “Zizi looked like she was going to fall over,” she comments with a laugh. “She told me later that she’s glad she didn’t have to lipsync, because she’d lost all control of her knees. Something about trying to freestyle in front of Wen Qing.”

Wei Ying laughs. “Wen Qing might do dance/choreo for a living, but she could have a whole side career out of scaring people. I tried to get her on the right apps, but she refused, for some reason.”

The crowd laughs appreciatively, and turns back to the screen. Wen Yuan reaches over and grasps Wei Ying’s fingers, the touch hidden beneath her sleeve. 

“Two queens stand before me,” Lan Qiren says as the lights dramatically lower. “Queens, this is your last chance to impress me and save yourself from elimination. The time has come for you to lip sync for your lives.”

The room feels like it’s narrowing around them as Wei Ying struggles to take a deep enough breath. The crowd is completely silent

The music starts. 

“I’ll never be a diamond in the flesh–”

––––

Aired Footage

Yiling Patriarch and Jinny Xun stand on either side of the dark stage, waiting. They are wearing their runway gowns—Jinny Xun in a bubblegum pink, off-the shoulder ball gown, Wei Ying wearing a red and black gown with large, heavy skirts, a overbust corset, and a black high neckline underneath with a ring of red sequins at the neck. They stand motionless, Yiling staring down at her feet. She gives a single heavy breath. Then the lights sweep up as the music begins.

It’s a slow start to a lip sync, the music taking time to build. It’s not a dance song, particularly. Jinny Xun begins to prance back and forth across the runway, deliberately stepping in front of Yiling Patriarch, obscuring the judge’s view. Yiling ignores her, standing in one spot, singing in a pantomime fashion. 

The camera cuts to the queens behind them, who exchange anxious looks. Then, it cuts to Lan Qiren, who is frowning slightly. 

Jinny Xun continues her prowl, not quite dancing, but eating up lengths of the stage beneath her long strides. The camera follows her, only moving back occasionally to Yiling’s stationary form. 

“Come on,” Zizi Green’s whispers, “do something.”

Nearly a minute in, as the music builds. Yiling turns slowly, the frame coming in tight around her. She coughs once. Twice. And then the chorus begins, and as she begins to sing a cascade of red sequins falls from her mouth. 

“Oh!” The safe queens at the back of the stage gasp, Zizi reaching over and grabbing Yuanna Wen’s hand. 

Yiling begins to dance in jerky motions, offbeat and disjointed, as she stumbles across the stage, a trail of red following her. As the chorus ends, she falls to the ground, rolling onto her back. Jinny Xun steps over her as she makes another lap of the runway, arms aloft, her motions bigger, showier as though she has realized that something is happening, though she is not watching Yiling.

Yiling rolls on her back, her chest spasming as she arches her back, higher, higher, as though she is being pulled by a string and is lifted back to her feet, her mass of skirts left behind as a thin black fabric trails behind her like a cape of smoke. 

She faces the judges again, and a black smear has appeared across her face, down her neck, meeting the neckline of a sheer black bodysuit with red sequins dripping down the front from the throat. She lurches towards them, arms outstretched, her palms red.

Jinny Xun marches in front of her, but Yiling continues her advance, her arms coming around Jinny Xun’s shoulders, her hands grasping. Jinny steps sharply to the side, and Yiling falls to her knees just as the music ends. 

The safe queens burst into applause, Jingyi and Zizi whooping loudly. Sandu turns to Jiggy. “Looks like you’re about to be down another Jin!” she says over the noise. 

Jiggy smiles at her, her twin dimples unmatched by her eyes, and shrugs. 

Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren whisper, their heads close together. With a nod from Lan Qiren, they break apart. Baoshan Sanren levels a steady look at Yiling and Jinny.

“Thank you, queens,” Baoshan Sanren says. “We’ve made our decision.”

A long pause follows, as the camera cuts back and forth between Yiling and Jinny. “Yiling Patriarch,” Baosahn Sanren says, “we have never seen anything like that. And when you’ve been around as long as I have, that’s truly saying something. Shantay, you stay.”

––––

Unaired Footage

Wei Ying arrives in the werk room with a whoop, arms pumping overhead. Lan Jingyi cartwheels in beside them as Ouyang Zizhen duck walks on the other side. The rest of the cast files in behind them, looking tired and eager in varying degrees.

Wei Ying walks over to a work table and calls their team to follow them over. There are dark circles under their eyes as they dish out final notes. Jin Zixun does not join, pulling Meng Yao over to a corner instead, their heads bent low together. 

“Aren’t they coming?” Ouyang Zizhen frowns. “Jinny’s supposed to be the captain—”

“Don’t worry about them,” Wei Ying waves a dismissive hand. “No time. Zizi, A-Ling—” 

“–don’t call me that–”

“Little Mistress, then. I like the chemistry you’ve got going. But don’t get so caught up in the patter that you forgot to play out. Zizi, I know you have theater experience. I’m counting on you to help Little Mistress remember to cheat towards the camera. And remember, speed is good, but not at the cost of diction. If they can’t hear you, then they can’t laugh at the jokes.”

“Got it, Papa!” Ouyang Zizhen says, saluting. 

Jin Ling gives a curt nod, chewing on her lip. Helooks worried.

“Alright, Fangela, love the fanwork. Don’t be afraid to add in even more. It’s drag, right? There’s really no such thing as too much—”

“What are you doing?” Jin Zixun asks, stomping up behind Wei Ying. 

“Coaching,” Wei Ying answers, without bothering to turn to look at him. “Speaking of, Jiggy, can you help A-Lin— I mean, Little Mistress with her lines? Your memory is insane.”

“Of course,” Meng Yao smiles.

“What do you mean you’re coaching?” Jin Zixun snipes back. “I’m the captain of this team.”

“Well, you weren’t here. Just like you weren’t there last night when everyone was running lines and practicing. Just like you sat out the entire choreo session, because you were ‘too tired’. Just like you—”

“Worry about yourself!” Jin Zixun snaps, swiping the notebook out of Wei Ying’s hands. “I’m the lead! I don’t have time to be holding everyone’s hand and wiping their noses! This isn’t Gusu’s Best Friends’ Race—”

“—Clever, did you come up with that all by yourself—”

“Says the Song Lan knockoff. Just keep your mouth shut and stay out of my way!”

Jin Zixun stomps off, taking the folder with him.

“Uh, Jinny, that’s Yiling’s—” Ouyang Zizhen starts. 

“Don’t bother,” Wei Ying says. “I’ve got my lines mostly memorized anyway. Probably. I just … I just need some coffee. Wake my brain up a little, and it’ll come to me. I didn’t sleep well.”

Jin Ling frowns, sharing a look with Ouyang Zizhen. Nie Huaisang brings his fan up to his face, but his eyebrows are knit together over the top. “Why not, Wei-xiong?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Wei Ying shrugs. “My melatonin doesn’t seem to be doing shit anymore. Doesn’t matter, let’s get to work.”

The camera cuts away, but not before Nie Huaisang’s eyes dart over to Meng Yao and his sympathetic smile.

––––

“—Thanks, Kerry. God, you’re the best. Is there whiskey in this? No?” They pout dramatically, sticking their lower lip out and forcing it to quiver. “I know I said no alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to me! I can’t be trusted to know what’s good for me, you know.”

“Are we ready?” an off-camera voice asks. 

Wei Ying waves at them, a little impatiently. “Almost, give me a moment. I haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t encrusted in day-old glitter in almost a week, I’ve gotta have a little normal conversation or I’ll go crazy. How’re you, Kerry? You look tired.”

They frown at an inaudible reply. “Nevermind, Wei Ying. Let’s focus up so we can all get out of here. How do you feel about your performance today?”

Wei Ying looks unconvinced, eyes still focused off screen in concern. “Wei Ying, please.”

They huff, crossing their arms and leaning back in their chair. “How do I feel about today’s performance? I feel like today’s performance was shit. I was shit. We all saw it.”

––––

Ouyang Zizhen takes the mug of tea handed to him with a thanks, but his eyes are downcast, the corners of his mouth pulled into a frown. 

He takes a sip of the tea and shakes his head. “What was the question? How do I feel about Wei Ying’s leadership?”

“Into the camera, Zizi.”

He looks up, eyes locking into the camera for a moment before pulling away again. “They were amazing. They did everything they were supposed to do. Everything they had to do. And they knew their lines. I know what it looked like, but … we ran lines all night. They helped me get off book. I know they knew them. I don’t know what happened but … something stinks.”

––––

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

This week, the queens are in for an education—we’re sending them back to school! This one’s going in the history books, as the queens learn a lesson in improv, courtesy of our guest judge, the star of the hit series Yi High, the mononymous A-Qing!

Episode Recap: Back to Basics (Bitches)

by QIN SU

“Watch your backs—some bitches are here to play dirty.” 

Jinny Xun’s parting words set a sour note for the start of our fourth week, leaving the queens puzzling over who she means. Theories fly freely around the werk room right up until the alarm bell rings, and Baoshan Sanren enters solo, putting a pause to the gossip.

This week’s mini challenge tasks the queens to get into quick drag and put on their best brand face for a promo for Lan Qiren’s new cosmetics line Discipline . Yuanna Wen rides the momentum from winning the last episode, bagging a full makeup kit of Lan Qiren products, and giving her the power to assign roles in the upcoming improv challenge. 

Here’s the twist: as of this week, there are no more teams. Queens will be judged individually, meaning no one is safe. To help them prepare, Baoshan Sanren introduces them to the mononymous star of JinLinTV’s hit series, Yi High, A-Qing. “Stay out of your heads and keep the scene moving. Never say no to what your scene partners give you,” A-Qing advises, and then the queens are off to pick characters and practice for their own spin on the hit show —Caulkerbush High. 

Come filming day, it becomes clear that the competition is starting to get to some of the queens. Zizi Green struggles to focus—turns out she’s a big fan of A-Qing and keeps getting distracted. Sandu Shengshou struggles to channel the aggressive energy of the Queen Bee, and ends up by turns snapish and overly quiet in front of the camera. Sue Me struggles to shake off her displeasure at her assigned role, and Fangela is scolded for her take on her Mean Girl as being too subtle.

The hands down standouts of the improv challenge, though, are Bad Girl the Yiling Patriarch and Good Girl Hanguang Jun, both of whom earn a groan for their performance that is music to any comedian’s ears. The good fortune follows them to the runway, where the category is Back to School. The Yiling Patriarch walks in high fashion twist on a delinquent, earning her the top spot for the week.

The bottom queens for the week are no surprise after the challenge performances. Zizi Green is in the bottom two, along with Sandu Shengshou, whose strong runway look wasn’t enough to save her.

The lip sync begins, ABC by the Jackson 5 playing as the safe queens watch. Zizi Green is a fun queen to watch, but she’s no dancer and she doesn’t stand a chance against Sandu Shengshou. 

Zizi Green sashays away, thanking the judges and blowing a kiss to A-Qing before she’s engulfed in the arms of her fellow queens. 

Ten remain, and the title to the crown is heating up. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 5: A Wig is Snatched. Only on JinLinTV.

––––

🍇💃🏻😠
ajie’s having the baby
Friday, 7:52 PM

Wei Ying stares at the text, a complicated knot winding itself tighter and tighter each time they reread the words on the screen.

Jiang Yanli is having the baby. She’s having the baby, and Wei Ying is in a single stall bathroom, propped against a door with a broken lock as they prepare to take the stage and wish, more than anything, that they could be there. 

She’d tell them that it’s fine. That this is their job, of course they can’t be there. She’d say there’s no need. She has Mianmian there to take care of her, after all. It’s not like there’s anything Wei Ying could do if they were there. They’d probably just be in the way, their presence like throwing gasoline on the fire that is Madam Yu. It’s better if they don’t go.

Wei Ying sighs, letting their head fall back against the door with a hard thunk. What should they do? How should they reply? Is Jiang Cheng even expecting a message back? Will he be angry? He probably felt obligated to tell Wei Ying—maybe Jiang Yanli made him, probably too busy to be able to do it herself, what with having a baby and all. 

They stand there for long minutes, eyes closed as their thoughts whirl with indecision, until a knock jolts them back to reality. 

“One moment!” Wei Ying calls, straightening up, checking over their reflection in the mirror. They hesitate, then stash their phone in their pocket. They’ll figure out how to respond later—once they’ve had some time to clear their head. 

Wei Ying affixes a smile to their face and opens the door, apologizing to the line that has formed. “Things got complicated, as you can imagine,” they say with a wink, not even really sure what they’re implying, but receiving a bevy of laughs for the effort.

It’s a different bar tonight—their agent (it’s weird to think that they have an agent now) had booked them the gig on the grounds that it would “be good for them to ride the wave of fame and make new connections”. Tonight, they’re in Laoling. They’re flying solo for the evening, unfortunately, which means that they need to focus. Without someone to play off of, it’s up to them to keep the energy up and carry the show. 

Wei Ying weaves through the crowd, acknowledging their excited fans with a wave, accepting hugs and posing for selfies as they push their way towards the bar. If they’re going to do this, then they need to get loose, and given how tightly strung they feel that’s going to require a lot of booze.

“Vodka,” they shout over the noise. “Throw some soda in there, for giggles, but keep it coming.”

The bartender nods, taking an ice-filled tumblr and filling it halfway with well vodka and a splash of soda water over the top. Wei Ying takes it, immediately gulping down most of it, quickly enough to avoid the displeasure of having to taste it. “Alright,” Wei Ying says, mostly to themself. “Let’s do this.”

––––

The crowd rushes the stage as the episode finished, engulfing Wei Ying in compliments and effusive invitations to after parties. Wei Ying rises on aching feet, the skin around the tops and bottom of their corset burning with prolonged friction. The room tips sideways momentarily, then rights itself again. 

“You were incredible!” Someone is tugging on their hand, pulling them off of the stage. “Come out with us!” they say. “Let’s celebrate!”

Wei Ying follows the force that is pulling them along, not sure where they’re going, vaguely aware that they should stop this—a gnawing sensation in the back of their head, behind the curtains of twisted fog telling them that they need to go. Get back to their grimy hotel, shower, drink some water, and go to bed.

Except.

Except, they can’t stomach it. The idea of going back to their hotel room, to the quiet solitude to chase their amorphous thoughts around the befogged landscape of their mind. There is something … something they are supposed to be doing. It dances just out of reach as they’re pulled into the cool night, away from the pounding music and voices of the club, control surrendered to the fingers that have closed around their wrist. 

Their head clears a little, and they catch the edge of the memory. A text. An important text. They reach for their pocket, only to realize there aren’t any. Did they have a purse? “My bag … ” they say, the words too thick for their mouth. 

“This way,” the person says, turning a corner with Wei Ying in tow.

The streets are busy. It’s not that late, despite the dark—the days are growing rapidly shorter as they crawl towards the end of the year. But the turn takes them into an alley. An alarm sounds in Wei Ying’s head, accompanied by a rush of head-clearing adrenaline. “Whoa,” they say, tugging their hand free. “Where are you taking me?”

The person turns to them with a smile. “Didn’t you want to go somewhere quieter?” they ask.

“I thought you said an after party.”

“I said a celebration,” they return, stepping into Wei Ying’s space. “Don’t you want to celebrate with me?”

Wei Ying looks at them, their eager face turned up towards theirs. They’re attractive, Wei Ying thinks; a pretty face, soft and uncomplicated. They press up against him, and Wei Ying falls a step backward. 

“No,” Wei Ying says, “no. I’m not—no.”

“Hey, don’t–” they grab for Wei Ying again, but the vodka haze, the tumble drunk riot in their head has quieted and cleared a little. 

Wei Ying shakes their head. “I’m going,” they say. “Be safe.”

They exit the alley into the street, teetering on their heels. They need to get back to their hotel to sleep off this bad decision and this bad night. They look around, trying to get their bearings, and realize they have no idea where they are. Wei Ying sighs internally, and begins to walk at random, hoping against hope that they can stumble on their club again. 

No such luck.

They consider asking a passerby, but they can’t remember the name of the club. People pass them, giving a wide berth to the drunken drag queen wandering down the street with aimless desperation. 

They consider hailing a cab, only even if they could find a cab in the age of rideshares, they’d have no way to pay them, their wallet tucked away with their purse back at the club. 

They wander for an hour, leaving the bustling nightlife behind them as they meander into more remote pockets of the city before giving up. They’re too drunk and too lost for this—and they're only going to get more lost if they continue moving with no destination. They fall into a seat on a vacant bench outside a small park and tug off their heels. They’d like to get out of their tights and corset as well, but they’re not about to strip in public—they might be drunk, but they’re not public nudity drunk. Giving in to the inevitable shittiness of the universe, Wei Ying reclines, staring up at the sky overhead. They’ll just have to wait for morning, which will, hopefully, bring clarity with it. 

They pillow their head on their arms, wondering, distantly, if this is what rock bottom feels like as they drift off to sleep. 

––––

“... -Ying…”

Somebody is shaking them. Wei Ying frowns, twisting away from the assault, and finds themself falling. They yelp, eyes opening just as a pair of arms shoot out and save them from colliding with the ground.

“Wei Ying?”

That voice. Those arms. Oh shit, Wei Ying knows that voice and those arms. They twist around, looking up into the concerned golden eyes that are frowning down at them. “Hey, Lan Zhan,” they say, wondering what god they’ve pissed off to deserve this fate. “Good catch.”

Lan Zhan helps Wei Ying to their feet. Wei Ying tries desperately not to think too hard about all the places those hands are touching, because now is definitely not the time. They’ve just been found sleeping rough in drag in the middle of … a playground? Yeah, there’s a swing set and monkey bars. This is definitely a playground. 

Wei Ying sways a little. It’s still dark out, and they realize, with mounting horror, that they are definitely still drunk. Still drunk and still very, very lost. 

They sort through this, Lan Zhan’s eyes on them, waiting, boring holes into them like molten gold, until Wei Ying finally can’t take it anymore. “What are you doing here?” they ask, the question coming out more demanding, more accusatory than they’d intended.

Lan Zhan seems unperturbed as ever by the rudeness, and answers simply, “I came for Wei Ying.”

Wei Ying’s heart skips a beat, stupid, traitorous thing that it is. “What do you mean? How did you know where I was? I don’t even know where I was. Where I am. Where am I?”

Lan Zhan ignores most of this, bending down instead to grab Wei Ying’s discarded heels then, hesitating for a moment, puts a steadying arm around Wei Ying’s waist. At least, Wei Ying thinks it’s supposed to be steadying. It’s hard to say for certain, because they suddenly feel very off kilter and even more punchdrunk than before. “I have called a car,” Lan Zhan says, not answering Wei Ying’s questions. “We will go back to my hotel.”

“What—Lan Zhan, no, seriously, what? I’m too drunk for this, you’ve gotta explain this to me like I’m five.”

Lan Zhan doesn’t sigh, but he definitely gives the impression of sighing with his silent aggrievement. “Nie Huaisang texted me,” he says slowly, as though the words are being pulled out of him by force. “There is a photo on Instagram from a fan. It allowed me to find you.”

“Fuck,” Wei Ying says with passion. “Oh fuck, that’s … that’s not good.” 

Their stomach churns at the idea of the gossip that is undoubtedly flitting through drag cyberspace right now. They have definitely, definitely fucked up. “I don’t have my phone,” they say miserably. “Or my wallet or … anything. I was just trying to wait it out, I didn’t mean …” they trail off, the explanation feeble even to their own ears. 

Fuck. If this is online, that means Jiang Cheng is going to see, and when he does he’s going to be … to be furious . Because if he sees, that means a-jie will see, and then—

“Oh fuck the baby,” Wei Ying says, memory hitting them like lightning. “A-jie is having a baby and I’m out here drunk and alone and phoneless—”

“Not alone,” Lan Zhan says as a blue Toyota pulls to a stop in front of them. He herds Wei Ying into the backseat, placing a hand carefully on the top of their head like they do in cop shows to keep them from hurting themself—not that Wei Ying would watch cop shows. So they’ve caught a few episodes of SVU in the forced solitude of hotel rooms. It’s not Wei Ying’s fault that there seems to be a never-ending marathon of episodes playing on every hotel room tv. “Cops suck,” Wei Ying mutters to themself as Lan Zhan slides in after Wei Ying. 

Lan Zhan huffs in agreement, not questioning the non-sequitur, and pulls the door closed. “Lan Zhan, do you have Jiang Cheng’s number?” Wei Ying asks suddenly, feeling more than a little desperate. “I need to call him, and I don’t know his number. My ... my sister, she’s having a baby. She may have already had the baby, I need—”

Lan Zhan reaches over, moving in tight to Wei Ying’s space, his face closing the gap between them. Wei Ying sucks in a breath, too startled to move or react. Lan Zhan pauses, eyes darting momentarily down to Wei Ying’s lips, before he continues past them, grabbing the seatbelt and pulling it across their chest, surfacing the buckle from beside their hip and latching it, pulling the belt tight.

“You should buckle in,” he says, rather belatedly, in Wei Ying’s opinion. 

Wei Ying remembers to breathe and laughs through the shock. They feel as though the alcohol in their system is burning away under the mortification of the situation, although they’re also pretty sure that’s not how alcohol works. 

“I do not have Jiang Cheng’s number,” Lan Zhan says after a moment. “I can ask Nie Huaisang, however I do not believe they will reply until morning.”

“That’s … yeah, that’s fine.” Wei Ying lets the hopelessness overtake them, resigning themself to the inevitable fight and berating, which they definitely, definitely deserve. 

They ride in silence for a while, long enough that Wei Ying realizes that they are no longer in the city. “Where are we going?” they ask, looking out the window, then regretting it immediately as their head spins with the combo of booze and the tree whipping past.

“My hotel,” Lan Zhan says. “I was doing a show in Lanling."

“What?” Wei Ying says, reaching new depths of mortification. “Lan Zhan! That’s so far, you came all that way just to find me? That’s—”

“It is fine,” Lan Zhan cuts them off. “It is not that far.”

“Not that far?” Wei Ying repeats, feeling hysterical. “God that had to be, what, a $50 ride, one-way? I’m not worth it, Lan Zhan, you should’ve let—”

“Worth it,” Lan Zhan says sharply. He sounds … strange. Angry, maybe? Is this what Lan Zhan sounds like when he’s angry? Wei Ying isn’t sure. For all that they’ve annoyed and teased and poked at Lan Zhan in the past, they’ve never actually managed to make him angry. 

“I think you’ll find you’re wrong there,” Wei Ying says, leaning back against the headrest and closing their eyes. “Fuck, I am so tired.”

“Sleep,” Lan Zhan says in his deep voice, smooth and calming like a roll of distant thunder on the front of a summer storm. 

––––

The car stops outside of a tall, bright building. Wei Ying blinks awake in the sudden yellow lights, and realizes they are being lifted from the car. 

“Whoa!” they cry, flailing a little. 

Lan Zhan’s arms tighten, pulling them tight against his chest. “Be still,” he says, and Wei Ying feels his body go motionless, as if Lan Zhan was in charge rather than their own brain. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, embarrassed by the smallness of their own voice, “You can’t just carry me…”

“You are not wearing shoes,” Lan Zhan points out, reasonably. “It is not trouble.”

“It is definitely trouble,” Wei Ying mutters, but allows themself the not-so-small indulgence of leaning their head into Lan Zhan’s shoulder. It feels nice to be carried. They’re feeling more grounded now. The world is spinning less and their thoughts have untangled themselves enough that they can see the absurdity of their situation. Still, they don’t feel capable of fighting the current, so they let themselves be borne along by it—through the marble lobby, into the sleek steel and glass elevator, all the way to Lan Zhan’s room. “Wei Ying,” he says, “my room card. It is in my pocket.”

“Okay,” Wei Ying says muzzily, enjoying the way they can feel Lan Zhan’s pulse against their cheek where they have nuzzled closer into his neck. He smells good—really good. Like sandalwood and green tea and fabric softener all at once. Wei Ying’s head swims in the scent, a warm sensation blossoming in their chest.

“My breast pocket,” Lan Zhan clarifies. There’s a silence, a beat too long, before he adds, “Could you get it for me?”

“Oh!” Wei Ying says, jerking their head away from it’s happy perch and realizing, with a flush, that they’ve definitely just been sniffing Lan Zhan, like an absolute creep. “Right, breast pocket, you’ve got it.”

They contort their arm awkwardly to reach into Lan Zhan’s breast pocket—realizing, for the first time, that Lan Zhan is wearing a button-up shirt. A shirt that has things like breast pockets . The absurdity of it hits them, and they fight a losing battle against the giggles bubbling up in them, aware that they’re teetering precariously on the edge of hysterics.

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan asks.

“Sorry, sorry,” Wei Ying says, trying hard to get control of themself. They fish the room card out with two fingers, trying to limit the amount of feeling those fingers are doing as they brush against Lan Zhan’s chest. “I’m just so used to seeing you in dresses and glitter, the whole 9 to 5 cosplay is a real twist.”

“Mm,” Lan Zhan hums, bending down so Wei Ying can pass the room key over the card reader. “It was a gift from my uncle. I was on a call with him.”

“Ah,” Wei Ying says, fresh guilt writhing in their stomach as the door swings open. “Sorry.”

“No need,” Lan Zhan says, depositing them back on the ground once they’re in the room. 

With their body back under their own control, the tipping of the world around them resumes again, although it is much less volatile than it was previously. “Ugh,” they say, pressing a hand into the wall to steady themself as they reach down to pull off their shoes, only to remember when staring down at their stockinged foot that Lan Zhan has their shoes. “I am never drinking again,” they moan, tipping their head back onto the wall. It is a lie, but it is a comforting one.

“Do you need assistance getting out of that?” Lan Zhan asks, taking Wei Ying’s arm at the elbow and welcoming them out of the entryway and into the room, sitting them on the bed. 

Wei Ying reaches up, pulling out the small handful of pins holding down their wig—they hadn’t bothered with wig glue, since the gig only involved sitting and talking—and just resists the urge to throw the thing across the room once their head is freed. They sigh, tugging off their wig cap and running their fingers over their scalp, massaging into the ache of it. 

“I’d love to say no, but I’d also love to actually get out of drag a whole lot more,” Wei Ying groans, falling back on the bed. “It’s been hours. Too many hours. Yes, jiejie. Help, please.”

“Stand,” Lan Zhan says in a commanding voice. 

Wei Ying whines a little, on principle—this bed is very comfortable but pulls themself back up and onto their feet. 

“Zipper?” Lan Zhan asks, placing his big hands on Wei Ying’s hips and spinning them around. 

Wei Ying laughs, shaking their head, trying not to think about how warm Lan Zhan’s hands are on them. “Of course not. Zippers? In drag? Ridiculous. Boring. Who needs zippers when there’s spandex?”

“Arms up,” Lan Zhan says by way of response, reaching down to grasp the hem of Wei Ying’s dress. 

They raise their arms and the world disappears momentarily in black spandex, the squeaky pleather coating dragging slightly along Wei Ying’s sticky arms as it’s lifted off of them. Lan Zhan stretches the neck gently to allow Wei Ying to wriggle out without smearing the whole thing with makeup. 

“Just throw that anywhere,” Wei Ying says as they emerge from the pleather cocoon. “It’s sturdy and also it only costs, like, 50 cents a yard. Never underestimate a garage sale, Lan Zhan,” they add sagely.

Lan Zhan doesn’t respond, which is fair, but Wei Ying is aware of him behind them—the quiet crinkle of his shirt as he breathes, the prickling sensation of nearness along the back of Wei Ying’s neck. The next moment, Wei Ying feels their corset loosen, and they moan involuntarily in relief. “Oh that feels so good.”

They take in a deep breath, relishing the sensation of their ribs expanding. Why do they even wear corsets? Wei Ying is never wearing a corset again. 

“Can you handle the rest?”Lan Zhan asks as Wei Ying slips the loosened corset off down their hips. It’s a tight squeeze over the ass, not quite loosened enough to easily slide down, but the glide of the stockings helps. 

“Got it,” Wei Ying says, succeeding in pushing the corset past their hips and stepping out of it. They fall forward onto the bed, and begin to shimmy out of the tights. 

Lan Zhan clears his throat, and Wei Ying realizes that they are wiggling their ass in the air, like they’re in heat. “Whoops!” they yelp flipping over onto their back now that they’ve got the tights to their knees. 

They quickly finish pulling them down their legs and kick them off. 

And then realize that they are sitting in the buff. On Lan Zhan’s bed. “Goddammit,” they cry, grabbing for the dress that Lan Zhan had laid out carefully on the bed, using it to cover themselves as they jump to their feet, face burning as they think about how they just had the bare ass all over Lan Zhan’s bedspread. “Fuck, I forgot I wasn’t wearing panties,” they say, a desperate attempt to say anything that will salvage the unsalvageable.

Lan Zhan is staring determinedly up at the ceiling. His ears are pink, which is devastatingly cute, and not particularly helpful at this moment. “It is fine,” he says.

“It definitely is not ,” Wei Ying argues. “But also, I am drunk, which isn’t an excuse, but it is at least an … an explanation. Fuck. Okay, I’m going to go shower.”

They make an escape for the bathroom before Lan Zhan can respond, and shut themselves inside. Wei Ying wishes, desperately, that there was some magical “get sober” button to save them from this situation. Although, they’re not entirely certain that they can blame this on the alcohol. Wei Ying is messy at all times, after all, including sober ones. 

They sigh. It is what it is. It’s not like they haven’t embarrassed themself around Lan Zhan before, although this might be new depths, even for them. They throw the dress on the floor and walk over to the shower. It is, like all hotel showers, needlessly complicated. It takes a minute of fiddling to figure out how to get it going at a temperature that isn’t going to boil them like a lobster, or else turn them into a Wei Ying popsicle. 

There’s a gentle knock on the door, and then Lan Zhan calls to them. “There is cold cream on the counter, and micellar water in the pink bottle,” he says. “Please feel free to use either.”

“Thanks, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, heart swelling stupidly, as though makeup remover is something to get sentimental about. 

They locate the cold cream and slather a generous portion over their face before stepping into the now steaming shower and wrestling with the strangeness of their life.

Wei Ying emerges from the shower, their brain a little clearer, and wonders about whether or not the allegedly debunked magical sobering properties of a good shower are actually just beyond the concept of science. They feel better, insofar as the world no longer spins and their thoughts have pulled themself into something as close to order as Wei Ying’s thoughts ever get. But this sudden clarity actually makes things … much, much worse.

Wei Ying is in Lan Zhan’s hotel room. They’re in Lan Zhan’s hotel room, because they were publicly intoxicated and Lan Zhan had to rescue them. It’s horrifying and Wei Ying wants very much to just hop back in the shower and see if they can melt down the drain.

They shake the surprisingly soft hotel towel roughly through their hair, squeezing out as much water as possible. They need to tackle things in some kind of logical order. They’re sober enough now that they should be able to make their way back to their own hotel… somehow. They still can’t remember the name of the club they were in tonight, but maybe they can borrow Lan Zhan’s phone to call the hotel and ask for a pickup? The hotel has their card on file, it’s possible—

First, though, there’s a much more pressing matter at hand. 

They look down at the neatly folded stack of clothes on the sink counter. They’re soft, made of a light cotton that feels almost silken between their fingers. There’s a pair of drawstring bottoms in a pale blue, a matching top—who actually has matching pajama sets? Lan Zhan, that’s who—and a pair of feather gray briefs. 

These Wei Ying eyes like they’re the heroine of a cheesy tv drama crouched before a ticking time bomb, clutching a pair of wire clutters hovering over a cluster of wires. “Red or blue, Wei Ying? What’ll it be?”

There’s a knock at the door. “Is everything okay?” Lan Zhan asks.

Right. Wei Ying has definitely been staring at the underwear too long. With resolution that they definitely don’t feel, they grab the briefs and slip them on. “Fine!” they say. “Out in a moment!”

Despite Lan Zhan being so much larger than them, the underwear legs cut into them around the flesh at the top of their legs, drooping slightly at the waistband. Wei Ying does not think about what this says about the trimness of Lan Zhan’s thighs and hips, choosing to empty their head instead as they tug on the pajama pants, pulling the drawstring tight so they stay up causing them to bunch around the crotch. They pull the shirt overhead, noting the presence of yet more buttons.

“All done!” Wei Ying says, pulling the bathroom door open. 

Lan Zhan is standing on the other side, a bottle of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other. He holds these out to Wei Ying, who takes them gratefully. “Oh my god, I’m starving,” they say, realizing that it’s true and tearing the bar open with their teeth. They take a bite, the bar crumbling onto the floor. “Whoops. Sorry, I’m a mess.”

“I will be out in a moment,” Lan Zhan says, moving past them into the bathroom. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

Wei Ying makes a noncommittal sound as Lan Zhan shuts the door, and then walks into the main room.

“Holy shit,” they whisper as they take it in with soberish eyes. 

The room is huge . This is nothing like the roadside, $50/night motels Wei Ying stays in, with their yellow walls and the suspiciously brown, shiny bedspreads that they remove before getting into the bed, because they saw a news special once and are pretty sure those never get washed. 

Lan Zhan’s room leaves no doubt about whether or not things have been washed, on account of being blindingly white. The walls, the carpet, the bedding—everything is white in a crisp, pristine way that nothing Wei Ying owns is. Wei Ying—who is aware of the concept of separating lights and darks before washing them in the way that they are aware that sometimes restaurants give you multiple forks, or in the way that they are aware that some people own different shoes for running vs. going to lunch with friends—is now pretty sure that their whitest shirt is actually gray and they’ve never fully conceived the concept of the color ‘white’ before. 

Their eyes rove over the room, landing on a smudge of gray and red on the bed spread—a nearly perfect imprint of their face in makeup. “Fuck,” they say, staring down at the stain. 

Lan Zhan exits the bathroom a moment later, wearing a pajama set that matches the ones Wei Ying is wearing. He looks soft, approachable, touchable in a way that Lan Zhan never looks, and Wei Ying can feel their heart throbbing in their throat. They swallow. “Did you pack two sets of pajamas?”

“It is prudent to pack spares while traveling,” Lan Zhan says, folding his day clothes and putting them into a cloth bag labeled “laundry” and tucking it away into his suitcase. “In case there are delays.”

Wei Ying laughs. “And here I’ve just been sleeping in the nude,” they say, slipping a hand over the ridiculously soft shirt. “I gotta say, though, you might have a point. I feel like I’m wearing a cloud.”

“You seem better,” Lan Zhan notes. 

Better must be code for ‘not falling over drunk and sleeping on a park bench.’ In which case, Wei Ying is definitely better. But in another way—

“Definitely more sober,” they say. “Sober enough that you don’t have to babysit me. I’m sorry about all this, Lan Zhan. If I can borrow your phone, I can call my hotel. I think they can send a car …” they trail off, their hand abandoned mid gesture. 

“Unnecessary,” Lan Zhan says. “It is late. We can sort it in the morning.”

Wei Ying opens their mouth to protest, but Lan Zhan’s eyes narrow. “Wei Ying,” he says, so sternly that Wei Ying’s jaw snaps shut again so quickly their teeth clack. “I know you are worried about your sister. But there is nothing that can be done right now. We will address it in the morning.”

Wei Ying doesn’t know how to tell Lan Zhan that they weren’t even thinking about Jiang Yanli—that they’d forgotten completely, which is really, truly horrible of them. “But Lan Zhan,” they say quickly. “The bed …”

Lan Zhan waits. The silence is agonizing. “What about it?” he asks at last. 

Wei Ying blinks. “There’s only one?” they point out. And I’ve already stained it with my makeup, because I’m more gremlin than human? They add in their head. 

“There is room,” Lan Zhan says, pulling back the covers and getting in one one side, leaving the other half for Wei Ying. 

“That’s not the point!” Wei Ying shouts.

Lan Zhan glares, and they lower their voice before speaking again. “Lan Zhan, be reasonable, I can’t sleep in your bed!”

Lan Zhan stares at them for a long moment, then huffs quietly. “It is late,” he repeats. “I am tired.”

He reaches over and clicks off the lamp on the bedside table, swathing the room in darkness. Wei Ying stands there, off-balance and a little frustrated at the dismissal of their concerns. Their very valid concerns!

They glare into the dark, aware that Lan Zhan can no longer see them, but feeling a little better for it nonetheless.

“Fine,” Wei Ying relents at last, crawling into the empty side of the bed. “But I warn you. I kick .”

Lan Zhan says nothing. Wei Ying rolls onto their side, facing out to the open room, and lets their eyes slide closed as sleep drags them under. 

––––

“Thank you!” Wei Ying says effusively as the bleary-eyed man passes over their purse. “You have no idea, thank you so much. And also, I’m so sorry.”

The man mumbles something unintelligible, which might be “Don’t mention it,” and shuts the door on them. 

Wei Ying clutches the purse to their chest in relief. “I am never letting you out of my sight again,” they coo, nuzzling their face into it. 

They turn back towards the street and wave the purse overhead, showing it off to Lan Zhan who is waiting back in the car. 

“Got it!” they yell, jogging up to the window. They open it, note that their wallet is still inside and pull out their phone. “All is in order! I have to be the luckiest bitch on the planet. I can’t believe he found it and kept it safe for me.”

“I’m glad,” Lan Zhan says.

Wei Ying smiles at him with gratitude. “Thanks again for … for everything. Last night was rough, but you saved it from being so, so much worse.”

“Thanks are not necessary,” Lan Zhan says. “Come, we’ll head back to your hotel.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary!” Wei Ying waves him off. “You’ve done enough! More than enough! I’ve got it from here.”

Lan Zhan heistates, so Wei Ying dials up the beam on his smile further. “If you’re sure …” Lan Zhan says.

“Completely!” Wei Ying chirps. “Don’t put yourself out. Besides, I’ve got to call my broth– Jiang Cheng, and that’s probably not going to be very pleasant. Best to tackle that one alone.”

“Very well,” Lan Zhan nods. “If you need anything …”

“I won’t!” Wei Ying says. “See you around! Hang in there—one quarter down, only three to go.”

“Mm,” Lan Zhan says, in a way that Wei Ying is pretty sure is more than a little grumpy. 

They laugh, and wave as the car pulls off, taking Lan Zhan with it.

As the car recedes, so does their smile. With apprehension, Wei Ying looks down at their phone. It is clinging to life, the battery flashing at them: 7%. Not enough for the conversation ahead, but hopefully enough for a quick verification of life and to get a car back to their room. 

They call the car first, and then open their texts.

🍇💃🏻😠
??
where r u?
the show ended an hour ago i know ur not busy
Friday, 10:07 PM

🍇💃🏻😠
ajies blood pressure spiked
theyre wheeling her back for an emergency c section
Friday, 10:27 PM

🍇💃🏻😠
where the fuck r u
Friday, 11:18 PM

🍇💃🏻😠
ud better be dead or im going to kill you
Friday, 11:55 PM

Wei Ying swallows as they see the next text in the chain. A link to an instagram post, the preview of which they can just make out as a person sleeping on a park bench. They don’t need to click to know what it is.

🍇💃🏻😠
r u fucking kidding me
dont bother coming
dont call me when u get this
im done.
Saturday, 7:00 AM

Something cold slides down Wei Ying's throat into their stomach, then spreads out to the rest of them until their fingers and toes and prickling. The car pulls up then, and Wei Ying climbs inside, breathing deeply through their nose against the swell of panic and regret. 

They click out of the text chain with Jiang Cheng. There are four texts from Nie Huaisang, one from Mianmian and two from Jiang Yanli.

They open Mianmian’s, and their eyes immediately spill over with tears. It’s a birth announcement, including a photo of Jiang Yanli holding a tiny, red bundle in her arms. She’s radiant, gazing down at the angry-faced baby with a tired smile. There are heavy bags under her eyes, her hair is plastered against her head, she’s too pale, and Wei Ying wants to gather her and the baby into their arms and pour all their love into them. “Meet baby Rulan. 6 lbs 4 oz. Mom and baby are healthy!”

Wei Ying is crying freely now, with relief and love and so, so much regret. They open Jiang Ynali’s texts, a sob escaping them. Another photo, this time a close up of a-jie pressing a kiss into the baby’s forehead, their eyes screwed up and tiny fists raised. 

🌼Jiang Yanli🌼
ur an unty
cant wait for you to meet them :)
Saturday, 9:03 AM

Wei Ying makes it back to their hotel room. It is dark, the heavy blackout curtains pulled shut, the musty smell of the room closing in around them as they fall to the bed, wanting to turn back time but having no option but to move forward through the mess they’ve created.

––––

Aired Footage

Hanguang Jun and Yiling Patriarch walk onto the set. They’re wearing color swapped versions of the same cheer uniform—Hanguang Jun’s in white and pale blue, her hair pulled into a neat black ponytail, fringe held back by a white headband. Yiling Patriarch is in black and red, her own wig styled messy, her pony tail tied back with a red ribbon with tendrils falling in her face. She’s paired the uniform with a pair of thigh high platform boots with buckled running all the way up the front, fingerless motorcycle gloves, and dramatic goth beauty makeup. 

“Let me guess,” A-Qing says, looking them over. “Good girl, bad girl?” she says, pointing to Yiling Patriarch and then Hanguang Jun. 

Yiling cackles, and drapes herself over Hanguang Jun’s shoulder. “Got it in one! Hanguang Jun here is always telling me what a good girl I am.”

“Ridiculous,” Hanguang Jun says, stepping away from them brusquely. Yiling tips on their heels at the sudden loss of support, and Hanguang Jun catches them.

“Sure, whatever,” A-Qing takes a seat behind a long folding table and picks up a clipboard. “Ready,” she says, plastering a wide, cheesy smile to her face.

The director nods, giving the signal. “Annnnd, action!”

“Welcome to Caulkerbush High cheer tryouts!” A-Qing gushes, in an over-the-top Valley girl impression. “Are you girls ready to show us your pep?”

Yiling, slouching disinterestedly, twirling her hair, gives A-Qing an obvious once over. “I’ll show you whatever you want, but I didn’t think it was that kind of audition.”

Hanguang Jun ignores Yiling entirely, standing rigidly with her hands at her sides. “I have prepared a routine that I believe you will find satisfactory,” she deadpans woodenly.

Beside her, the corner of Yiling’s mouth tips up briefly, before she catches it and schools her face back into dreary disinterest. 

“That’s what they all say,” she drawls, “and then next thing you know you’re two minutes older and the closest you’re going to get to satisfaction is the fun size snickers you keep in your bag.”

Hanguang Jun keeps her stiff posture, and A-Qing stands, hands on her hips. “Alright then, here’s the cheer, ladies.” She launches into a routine of standard cheer poses, waving her arms in stiff lines. “Caulkerbush, we have it all! Caulkerbush, we’ve got the ball!”

Yiling blows a bubble in what appears to be a wad of gray bubblegum. “Kinky,” she remarks.

Hanguang Jun steps forward, and raises her pompom. She mimics A-Qing’s moves exactly, and then begins to improvise several more gymnastic elements. A-Qing waves her arms to stop her. “That’s great and all, but this is cheer. You’ve gotta make some noise.”

At this, Yiling Patriarch perks up. “Oh, that’s not how you get her to make noise,” they say, walking over to Hanguang Jun and standing behind her. “This is how you get her to make noise.”

She makes a showy display of circling her arm in a wide arc, telegraphing the move to Hanguang Jun, giving her a chance to move out of the way, and then appears to pinch her on the butt. Hanguang Jun jumps theatrically, accompanied by a loud “yeah!” in a peppy cheerleader voice.

“Huh, yeah, that’s pretty good!” A-Qing enthuses. “Can you get her to do a whole cheer that way?”

Yiling Patriarch shrugs as though bored with the whole thing, leaning harder into her goth persona. 

“Sure, no problem.”

With that, Yiling begins poking and pinching and prodding Hanguang Jun, who follows the bit perfectly, flailing her pom poms dramatically while yelling her way through the cheer in an increasingly lewd voice. 

“This is great!” A-Qing claps her hands, then scribbles down on her clipboard. “I’ve seen enough, you’re both—”

“No,” Hanguang Jun interrupts in a breathy voice.

“What?”

Hanguang Jun lolls her head, panting. “Not enough yet. I’m—”

With a positively pornographic moan, Hanguang Jun slides to the floor in the splits, pompoms raised overhead. Yiling Patriarch slides down with her. She produces a fake cigarette from her top and takes a long drag before handing it down to Hanguang Jun and blowing smoke rings into the air with self-satisfied puffs. 

“Now we’re done,” Yiling says smugly. “Or at least, give me 20 minutes. 15 if you get me gatorade.”

“Cut!” the director calls off screen. 

Yiling and Hanguang Jun spring apart as A-Qing laughs. “You are disgusting,” she says appreciatively. 

Hanguang Jun tips her head in acknowledgment as Yiling Patriarch beams with pride. “Always happy to meet expectations.”

––––

Unaired Footage

“That absolutely sucked,” Zizi Green says as she applies liberal amounts of powder to her glued down brows. “Nothing has ever sucked as much as that sucked. And I’m very familiar with sucking.”

“Zizi, please! My ears!” Yiling cries, clapping her hands over their ears in mock horror. “I cannot hear my little daughter talking about sucking. And it didn’t suck.”

“Says you,” Zizi says darkly. “You and Hanguang Jun were perfect.”

“Maybe if you’re into crass humor,” Sue Me says, leaning forward toward the mirror to apply her eyeliner.

“Crass humor? On Drag Race? That’ll never fly,” Jingyi retorts, dripping with sarcasm. “You’re just mad because you had to be the bus driver.”

Before the fight can spiral further out of control, Jiggy interrupts, her voice carrying over the argument. “It was a hard challenge,” she says, in a leading voice. “I think it’s hard for a lot of us to think about school again. Was anybody here out in school?”

“I was,” Sue Me latches onto the prompt with relish that belies her wounded expression. “I was expelled for being gay from my dance school. They—”

“Oh, shut up,” Miss Jingyi cuts in. “We’ve heard it, and nobody believes it, Sue Me. Hanguang Jun’s family runs Gusu Dance Academy. Lan Huan was the principal dancer for ten years. They had an all queer troupe touring back in the late 90s. Pull the other one.”

“That just makes it even worse—”

“Sandu, are you okay?” The room goes quiet suddenly as Yuanna Wen walks over to Sandu, who has walked away from the mirrors back to her costume station. She doesn’t respond, her back resolutely to the group. Her shoulders appear to be shaking.

“Fangela!” Yiling yells. “Remember that time you auditioned for the girl’s basketball team? She thought she was make some kind of revolutionary point about gender, but then they let her join and she had to pretend to care about dribbling a ball for a whole season—”

The room’s attention turns to Fangela, who launches into the story with relish, but Yiling continues to send concerned glances back to Sandu.

––––

Confessional

“Can you tell us what was happening here?”

Sandu Shengshou (Jiang Cheng): “I had a headache,” he shrugs. “It’s loud, being in a room with eleven drag queens.”

“You looked like you were crying.”

Jiang Cheng glares at the floor, mouth squeezed into a tight line. “What would I be crying about?” he demands. “There’s nothing to talk about. Go to the next clip.”

“But it seemed like—”

“Are we done here?” Jiang Cheng stands suddenly, rising out of frame. “If you don’t have another clip, then we’re done here.”

“What? No no, sorry. Tom, go to the next one. Jiang Cheng, sit down, please. Just a few more.”

––––

JinLinTV Announces Acquisition of Fallen Giant WEN1

JinLinCO released a press statement on Friday announcing the long-anticipated acquisition of former media giant fallen-from-grace WEN1. The announcement was met with speculation from the business world about what the acquisition would mean for Wen Corp, as this marks the fourth branch to be sold off from the conglomerate this month, following the insider trading charges filed against former Wen Corp CEO Wen Ruohan. 

Wen Xu, current CEO who has stepped into the position following the charges brought against his father, said of the acquisition, “Wen Corp is focused on refining our business. The process requires trimming away the fat as we refocus on what is important and invest in effort in the products and services that are core to our business.”

Jin Guangshan, JinLinCO CEO, heralds the acquisition as a step forward for the conglomerate as they work to expand their entertainment business. “We have big plans for the network,” he said of the move. “We are excited for the future, and look forward to welcoming WEN1 and showing them what it means to be part of the Jin family of companies.”

The acquisition is expected to be finalized early next month, pending a presentation to and approval from the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee. 

––––

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

It’s finally here—it’s time to play the Snatch Game! The queens are tasked with the hardest performance challenge in Drag Race as they polish up their best impressions and prepare to volley. 

Episode Recap: A Wig is Snatched

By QIN SU

It’s here! The episode we’ve all been waiting for! The make or break, sink or swim, crash and burn spectacular that is Snatch Game!

But first, it’s the pit crew matching game mini challenge, in which the queens are tasked with matching together the cards the pit crew members hold. Jiggy Stardust easily sweeps the game, earning her a prize of drag jewelry befitting a Jin queen. 

Then, they’re off, as the queens set to work preparing the Snatch Game impersonations.

Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren take a lap around the werk room to get the download on what the queens have prepared for the snappy games of wits that has come to define Gusu’s Drag Race.

After the walkthrough, it looks like a couple of queens are in trouble.

Minge Gay is taking a risk by selecting to go with a classic: Cher. Baoshan Sanren warns, “Cher is an icon. If you’re doing Cher, you’ve got to really nail it.”

Our judges are similarly skeptical of the Yiling Patriarch’s choice: Lan Qiren. Well, one of the judges. Baoshan Sanren is clearly excited by the choice, but Lan Qiren seems thoroughly unimpressed. The Yiling Patriarch, however, seems unafraid and sticks to the plan to lampoon the very person who will be deciding their fate.

It turns out, she was right! Yiling Patriarch makes Snatch Game history, delivering devastating barbs just on the right side of ludicrous against her fellow contestants and Lan Qiren herself. 

Jiggy Stardust puts on a strong showing as well as David Bowie, and earns accolades for her performance from all of the judges. 

But the standout star of the night is an unexpectedly brilliant performance by young queen Yuanna Wen, who chooses to perform as a medley of Disney princesses, swapping characters as the game progresses. She also stuns on the runway, I’m a Star!, in a sculptural look representing Capricorn. 

Yuanna Wen’s excitement over her win is short-lived, however, as her drag mother Hanguang Jun is called for the bottom two, along with Sue Me, both of whom struggled to deliver during the Snatch Game—Hanguang Jun not making enough of an impression, and Sue Me making too much of one. 

Yuanna Wen need not have worried, however. The song is “I’m Gonna Live Forever” by Irene Cara, and it seems like Hanguang Jun actually means it, pulling out a dance performance that belongs on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater. 

In the end, Sue Me sashays away, and we’re one queen closer to crowning our winner. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 6: Xianxia: The Gusical. Only in JinLinTV

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

Hanguang 💡 jun
I hope you made it back to your room safely.
Saturday, 7:34 AM

 

🌸 jiejie 🌸
Hi aying! Wanted to let you know, mommas and baby are back home and doing fine!
Give me a call :)
Tuesday, 4:54 PM

🌸 jiejie 🌸
I hope you’re okay
Come visit soon, I want you to meet A-Lan!
Wednesday, 12:22 PM

🌸 jiejie 🌸
Pls text me back
Thursday, 10:15 AM

🌸 jiejie 🌸
Aying im worried
Im not mad at you
Pls call me
Friday, 4:41 PM

🌸 jiejie 🌸
I love you
Friday, 5:02 PM

 

Mianmian 💪
Can you please call your sister?
She is freaking out
Which is freaking the baby out
Which is freaking me out
Friday, 5:07 PM

 

🍇💃🏻😠
call jiejie
shes worried about you for some reason
Wednesday, 2:31 PM

🍇💃🏻😠
Hey asshole
Answer your phone
Thursday, 1:28 PM

🍇💃🏻😠
CALL JIEJIE
Friday, 5:00 PM

 

12 missed calls

Voicemail from jiejie

Hey A-Ying! It’s me. I just wanted to talk to you. I’ve missed you! Baby Rulan is doing well, and I thought you might want to come meet your nibling. Give me a call back. Love you.

Voicemail from Leia Turnpin

Wei Ying, this is your agent, Leia. I had to say that, because apparently you’re forgetting things, like turning up to your shows. I’ve been getting calls from the Drag Race people all day. You better be at your show tomorrow, or shit’s really going to hit the fan.

--------

r/GususDragRace· Posted by u/dragonmama89 9 hours ago  
211  Where is Yiling Patriarch?

I finally got in tickets to go to a Drag Race Watch party at the Burial Mounds, which was supposed to be featuring Yiling Patriarch back at her home club! But then, she just never showed. I drove 2 hours from Yunmeng to see her, I was heartbroken. I never thought that Yiling would do something like this—she always seemed like she loved her fans! When I went on her Instragram later, I saw she hadn’t posted since the whole thing last week, after the videos of her drunk at her gig got around. I’m worried! When I looked, all of her social media has been silent! What happened to Yiling? Is she okay?

     light_loverx · 8h

     She’s probably laying low after embarrassing herself and the whole gsdr community last week.

      54

         mimosas-n-chill · 4h

         Wait what happened? im out of the loop

         2

         light_loverx · 3h

         she got totally blasted at a gig left with some rando and was found passed out on a bench
         https://www.instagram.com/p/FHSna12/
         https://youtu.be/95KASFJASadA

          11

––––

hey zizi
Hope ur doing well
Im in a bit of a tight spot—any chance you could cover my gig at Vibe tonight?
Friday, 5:02 PM

Zizi G
Hey!
Hows it going? R u ok?
Everybody’s freaking out
Friday, 5:15 PM

Fine totally fine
Nothing to worry about!
Just need a bit of a break
Friday, 5:16 PM


Zizi G
I got you, no worries
But call Sandu or something
Shes been blowing up group chat looking for you
I think she and hanguang jun are about to send out an official search party
Friday, 5:18 PM

Lol
Right
Thx! I owe you one
Friday, 5:22 PM

Zizi G
No need
Rest up
And take care of urself
Friday, 5:24 PM

 

Hanguang 💡 jun
Wei Ying?
Friday, 9:58 PM

Hanguang💡 jun
Wei Ying, I heard you missed your show last night. Is everything okay?
Saturday, 6:58 AM

 

huaisang 🦢
wei-xiong r u alive
blink 3 times if you need help
👀 👀 👀
Saturday, 12:02 PM

 

Hanguang 💡 jun
Your agent called me looking for you. Are you in trouble?
Monday, 3:14 PM

––––

Aired Footage

"Hey, A-Cheng, look at me!" 

Sandu Shengshou looks up, barely managing to conceal a startled smile as the Yiling Patriarch stands ramrod straight, her hair tied into a tight topknot at the crown of her head, and sporting a long, bristly mustache—one half in pink, the other in blue.

"Would you be serious for once?" Sandu snaps, though she sounds amused. 

Behind Sandu, Miss Jingyi catches sight of the Yiling Patriarch and barks out a laugh. "Oh my god, are those worms on a string?" 

"How improper," Yiling retorts stiffly, standing up somehow straighter and stroking one of the fuzzy worms she is wearing as a mustache. "This is my very serious mustache. Now if you don't mind, I am very seriously busy with very serious business. Have a good and serious day!"

Miss Jingyi bites her lip to contain a life as Yiling spins on her heel only to bounce off of Lan Qiren's chest. Lan Qiren's eyes widen momentarily, then narrow again, taking in the "mustache" and the rest of Yiling's look.

"If you are quite ready," Lan Qiren says, "why don't you talk me through this ... look and who you will be impersonating."

"Oh," Yiling's eyes dart to either side, seemingly looking for a savior. When none appears, she shrugs and starts to stroke her mustache. "Isn't it obvious, laoshi?" she says, eyes dancing. "I'm you!"

The room falls silent, save for Miss Jingyi’s aborted attempts to smother her laughter. Lan Qiren’s frown deepens. “Find a better mustache.”

––––

Unaired Footage

“You are a fucking idiot,” Jiang Cheng mumbles under his breath. 

Lan Qiren has just completed a circuit around the room to check on their progress, parting with an ominous reminder that they will need to bring their best performances tomorrow. 

Wei Ying pulls off the right half of their mustache and throws the pink worm-on-string at Jiang Cheng, which he easily dodges. “It’s supposed to be a comedy challenge, isn’t it? What’s comedy without a little risk?”

“You think mocking the judge is a little risk ? I repeat: you are an idiot.”

“Comedy’s only funny if you’re punching up.” Wei Ying shrugs. “Who’s more ‘up’ in our situation than one of the judges?”

“It’s a bad idea.”

“No, it’s a funny idea.”

“It is disrespectful.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying turn to look at Lan Zhan, who is standing at the other end of the work table, carefully brushing out a wig. The tips of his ears are slightly pink. 

“Disrespectful? No!” Wei Ying sidles up to Lan Zhan, affecting a hurt expression. “Lan Zhan! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Don’t you agree? It’s not disrespectful—it’s the ultimate sign of respect!”

The remaining blue fuzzy worm falls off their upper lip, landing on the table. “Ridiculous,” Lan Zhan says, not bothering to look up from the wig.

“That’s the point, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says with a smile. “It’s called comedy.”

––––

As JinLinTV moves forward with acquisition, crews protest working conditions

Brittany Birkoff | September 3rd, 1:14 PM

A group of current and former JinLinTV employees gathered outside JinLinCO headquarters in Koi Tower on Tuesday to protest what they say are unsafe and illegal working conditions, demanding accountability from executives to improve conditions for cast and crew.

“Last month alone, over 15 people were injured on sets for JinLinTV productions,” said Kerry Harmon, formerly a camera operator for JinLinTV’s Gusu’s Drag Race . “That’s just the number that we know about from asking.”

Protestors, many of whom wore masks for fear of retaliation, made similar claims. “They don’t care about you or your safety,” said one protestor who wished to remain anonymous. “You’re expendable to them. And when you can’t do anything for them, then they’re done with you.”

The protest lasted for two hours before police arrived to break up the scene.

No official statement has been issued by JinLinCO or JinLinTV. 

The Underground has reached out, but JinLinCO has not responded as of the time of publication.

——

 

 

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

In an episode fit for off-off-off Broadway, the queens make their high-flying, singing debut in Xianxia: The Gusical, with expert guest choreographer and season 2 winner Song Lan showing them the ropes—literally.

Episode Recap: Xianxia: The Gusical

by QIN SU

Following last week’s shocking bottom 2, there’s electricity in the air as the queens enter the werk room, where Hanguang Jun barely pauses before wiping away Sue Me’s parting words.  

Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren seem to be similarly impatient to get going. There’s no mini challenge this week, as queens are told that this week they’ll be singing and performing live in Xianxia: The Gusical. But that’s not the only surprise in store, as guest choreographer Song Lan drops from the ceiling in a wired harness and announces that they’ll be performing aerial choreography. 

Lan Qiren hands out role assignments, and then our judges exit, leaving our queens to learn the lines and get their pipes warmed up. 

Fangela and Yuanna Wen—both of whom regularly sing live in their own shows—are quick to impress. Fangela then turns her attention to helping a struggling Minge Gay, who, for what she lacks in vocal talent, makes up for it with enthusiasm. 

Then comes the choreography. Dancing on the ground is one thing, but aerial choreography is another, as the queens learn the hard way. Sandu Shengshou, for all dance experience, is clearly out of her element and none-too-happy about it. The Little Mistress bursts into tears as she is hoisted into the air, revealing a crippling fear of heights.

Nonetheless, the performance is a spectacle in the best of ways. “You’ve left us with quite the challenge,” Baoshan Sanren says as the queens stand before her, feet back firmly on the ground. “Thank you for that. You’ve truly elevated this competition.”

Hanguang Jun secures the top spot for the week, demonstrating grace on the wires and taste on the runway that particularly impresses Lan Qiren. Fangela is a close runner up, though. “The use of fans in the air was inspired.”

The bottom two is a harder call, but unfortunately The Little Mistress’s fear got the best of her. She’s joined by Jiggy Stardust, who also failed to shine in the air. 

The lip sync to Rumor Has It by Adele, and both are clearly better with both feet on the ground. For her first appearance in the bottom two, Jiggy Stardust brings out all the tricks, with an elegant and jaw-dropping performance that makes the decision clear. The Little Mistress sashays away.

Eight queens remain. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 7: The Roast Beast. Only on JinLinTV

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

Voicemail from Leia Turnpin

So apparently you didn’t turn up at your show again last night. I can’t have my phone ringing all day over a client who doesn’t give a shit. Find other representation, the last thing I need is JinLinTV legal busting down my door and blacklisting my clients because one of them can’t make good on their contract. I hope you enjoyed your fifteen minutes, because you’ve just sunk your career before it even started.

Voicemail from [UNKNOWN NUMBER]

Mr. Wei, this is Tracy Dixon with JinLinTV. We need to speak with you urgently regarding your recent missed appearances and your contract. Please return this call immediately, or we will be forced to take legal action.

Wei Ying throws their phone aside. It bounces off the couch cushion onto the floor with an ominous crunch. They flinch, but don’t bother moving the check on it—the effort feels like too much just to verify bad news. They bury their face in the cushion, willing the world away. 

“Everything okay in there?” Wen Ning’s voice calls from the kitchen.

“Just dropped my phone,” Wei Ying replies, their voice muffled.

“Then pick it up.”

Wei Ying lifts their head just enough to peek an eye open at Wen Qing, who has seemingly materialized before them, arms crossed reproachfully over her chest as she glowers down at them. 

“I thought you were napping,” Wei Ying says, extracting themself with effort from their mournful repose to make space for her. 

Wen Qing rolls her eyes and sits down heavily next to them, snatching the tv remote from the coffee table. “I’ve been up for an hour,” she says. “I was working. Not all of us can just loaf about all day.”

“I’m not loafing ,” Wei Ying protests, crumbling back down with exaggerated pathos so that their head falls in her lap. They blink up at her with wide, sad eyes. “I’m suffering . It’s a very important part of the artistic process, you know.”

“Well, suffer quietly then,” Wen Qing says, even as she begins to stroke a hand over their hair. “The show’s starting.”

“Uggh,” Wei Ying moans and burrows their head into Wen Qing’s belly as the familiar theme song begins to play. “Qing-jie, do we have to?”

“Yes,” she says shortly. “If you don’t watch, then you don’t know what the world is seeing about you. Now shut up and pay attention. If you’re not going to go to work, the least you can do is watch an hour of tv.”

Wei Ying huffs their displeasure, but turns in her lap to face the tv. It is the least they can do.

––––

Aired Footage

The Little Mistress clutches to her harness, eyes squeezed shut as they prepare to lift her into the air. 

“This is so stupid,” she mutters, her voice cracking. “I hate this fucking show.”

“You’re doing great,” Yuanna Wen says encouragingly. The Little Mistress scoffs. “No, really. It’s okay to be scared, but I know you can do this.”

“...Thanks.”

“Ready in 3—2—1—”

“Fuck fuck fuck–”

“Lift!”

The Little Mistress is hauled into the air by her harness, yelping with shock before squeezing her mouth shut. She has gone slightly green.

“Don’t throw up,” Sandu Shengshou calls up to her from where she stands on an elevated platform. “You’re not even that high. It wouldn’t even break your legs.”

“Shut up!”

“Hey,” the camera cuts to the Yiling Patriarch, who is meant to be practicing her routine in her harness. Instead, she jumps up, catching the ledge of the platform where Sandu Shengshou stands, and dangles. “Save me, Sandu! I’m going to fall!”

Her legs kick a couple of feet from the ground. “Then die.” Sandu kicks at her, missing by several inches. The Yiling Patriarch gasps dramatically and plummets to the ground. 

“Wei Ying!”

Hanguang Jun appears at the Yiling Patriarch’s side, glaring up at Sandu Shengshou. 

Sandu shengshou rolls her eyes. “They’re fine!”

“Can you all shut up?” The Little Mistress yells down at them. “I’m trying to concentrate!”

“You can do it, baby girl!”

“I hate you so much.”

––––

“You did well.”

Wei Ying, who had been drifting off in Wen Qing’s lap for the last twenty minutes, yawns. “You’re sweet, A-Ning,” they say as they cuddle deeper into Wen Qing. Wen Qing, in response, kicks her leg up, jostling Wei Ying to force them to sit up. 

“Qing-jie! I was comfortable!”

Wen Qing ignores them, except for the unconcerned look she throws at them. “What was up with Jiggy Stardust?”

Wei Ying, thrown by the change in topic, cocks their head at her. “What do you mean?”

Wen Qing answers with an irritated huff. “Are you forgetting that I’ve worked with her? The only one of you who picks up choreography faster than Jiggy is Sandu, but she spent the whole episode looking like she was struggling. Suddenly she can’t do a kick pivot turn? That’s 101.”

“Maybe she was just having an off day?”

“Then she pulls that out for the lip sync?” Wen Qing shakes her head. “I don’t know. Maybe. It’s weird that she’s the only Jin left now that Little Mistress is gone.”

Wei Ying hadn’t realized, and considers. Besides Jinny Xun, who in Wei Ying’s opinion was never good enough to make the cast, the Jins should have been a powerhouse. It was strange that they’d all been eliminated so early. Especially considering the show was airing on JinLinTV. If anything, Wei Ying had gone in expecting a little nepotism in their favor, given that the whole family was in the entertainment business. 

Wei Ying was still pondering this, when there was a knock at the door.

It’s late. Not so late that they need to be in bed, but too late for unexpected visitors. Wei Ying sits upright, immediately on alert. But then, they see the look pass between Wen Ning and Wen Qing. The alarm they were feeling transforms into something wriggling. 

“Punctual,” Wen Qing says.

Wen Ning stands quickly, avoiding Wei Ying’s questioning gaze. “I’ll get it.”

“Qing-jie,” Wei Ying begins, worst case scenarios chasing one another through their head, “who…”

But before they can finish the question, they hear him; the deep, soft baritone of his voice like the rumble of waves against the shore at low tide. Wei Ying squeezes their eyes shut, breathing in deeply, allowing themself just a moment as the betrayal knifes through them. “Qing-jie, why– ?”

“You’ll thank me later,” Wen Qing says, rising to her feet. “Hanguang Jun, come in. Have a seat. I’ll bring tea.”

“No need,” he says. “I do not drink this late. You may call me Lan Zhan.”

“Right. Lan Zhan.” Wen Qing throws a look at Wei Ying over her shoulder, who nearly misses it as they have buried their face in their hands. “Well. Take your time. A-Ning and I will leave you to it.”

“Thank you.”

Lan Zhan gives a gracious bow as Wen Qing and Wen Ning hurry out the door, leaving Wei Ying in the inexplicable care of Lan Zhan.

Wei Ying doesn’t look up at him. They find that they can’t. The last time they had seen Lan Zhan had been a walk of shame away from his car the morning after they’d been found fall-down drunk and sleeping rough. Wei Ying wonders if they can wish hard enough that they could just fly away from the situation. Get away from whatever horrible confrontation the Wen siblings have betrayed them to before it can begin. 

They screw their eyes up harder, but a minute later they hear Lan Zhan clear his throat. “Wei Ying ...”

So. No magic teleportation or flight powers to save them from this one. Wei Ying groans. Fine, then. They’re going to do this. Whatever this is.

Wei Ying affixes a too-bright smile to their face, feeling the ugly twist of it, and lifts their head at last. “Lan Zhan,” they say, their voice brittle. “Why are you here?”

Lan Zhan stands before them, unmoving, but he seems to go more still at the ice he hears in Wei Ying’s voice. Wei Ying smothers the guilty feeling before the apology can come to their lips. 

“We have been worried,” Lan Zhan says carefully.

“We?”

The tips of Lan Zhan’s ears redden, but he nods all the same. “Nobody has been able to reach you.”

“Except you,” Wei Ying points out. “How did you find me?”

“Wen Qing.”

“Ah,” Wei Ying feels like slumping forward, like letting their body go boneless and easy. Instead, they lean back into the cushions, throwing their arms across the back of the couch, taking up as much space as they can. There’s no room for you here, Lan Zhan , they say with the sprawl of their body. 

Lan Zhan doesn’t move to take a seat. He remains standing, looking down at Wei Ying in a way that makes Wei Yin’s skin feel too tight. They hope that Lan Zhan can’t tell, forcing themself to remain distantly casual as their heart thumps an elaborate percussive rhythm against the rib cage. 

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says after a long pause, “I want to help you.”

“Help me? What makes you think I need help?”

“You have not been attending the Watch Parties.” 

“Nope.”

“You are in breach of contract.”

“Oh? Is that why you’re here? Did JinLinTV send you to collect me? Are you an attorney now, Hanguang Jun? Or, maybe the goon?”

“Wei Ying—”

“I’m not the only one breaking contracts.”

Lan Zhan frowns in confusion—a small knitting of his brows, not even enough to crease. Wei Ying, for one crazed moment, imagines kissing the spot. 

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing. It’s—nothing. I don’t need your help, Lan Zhan. And I don’t want it.”

Lan Zhan huffs. It is an outrageously oversized reaction on him, as good as screaming or tugging at his hair, or maybe even grabbing Wei Ying by the shoulders and shaking. He gathers himself quickly, and a moment later he’s back to that same impenetrable expression that Wei Ying knows so well. Too well. They can see the cracks in it: the tight corner of his mouth. The slightly elevated shoulders. The flare of his nostrils.

“Everybody has been worried about you.”

Wei Ying blinks at this return to the original attack. They wonder if Lan Zhan has prepared a script for this conversation. 

“I seriously doubt that,” they say, unwilling to concede the point. 

“I have been worried about you.”

He says it so boldly, it takes Wei Ying by surprise, like a hit to the solar plexus. They breathe in, forcing the lungs to work. “Don’t worry about me, Lan Zhan.”

“Come back to Gusu with me.”

“What?”

Lan Zhan closes his eyes, a slow blink, a gathering of faculties. “Come back to Gusu with me,” he repeats. “We can help. We have resources. For treatment. We can—”

“Treatment.” There is something in Wei Ying’s stomach clawing a furious path up. “What treatment is that, Hanguang Jun?”

“Wei Ying.” He sounds tired, Wei Ying thinks. Tired and desperate and … maybe disappointed. It’s the disappointment that catches in Wei Ying’s throat, a fish bone of irritation that they can’t swallow away. 

“I don’t need your treatment. And I don’t want your help.”

“Wei Ying—”

“Goodbye, Hanguang Jun.”

Lan Zhan doesn’t move. He’s frozen, as though he’s turned to ice, as though he’s made of jade. Wei Ying stands, advancing on him until they are nearly nose to nose. “Goodbye,” they repeat.

Lan Zhan closes his eyes again. Wei Ying, in the unobserved moment, drops their gaze to Lan Zhan’s lips, to the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallows hard. “I will go,” Lan Zhan says, taking a step back. It is just one step, but it is as though an impossible chasm has opened between them. Wei Ying considers, wildly, taking a step forward. They wonder what it would be like to fall in. To surrender to gravity. What would it feel like, to rush towards the messy end with no safety net? Would the thrill be worth it? 

“Goodbye, Wei Ying.”

––––

Unaired Footage

“What the fuck is this?” Nie Mingjue roars, his voice spiking the microphones. 

“Mingjue, calm down,” Meng Yao places a hand on his arm, which Nie Mingjue shrugs away from. 

“You!” Nie Mingjue yells, pointing at the producer clutching a clipboard to their chest with a hunted look in their eyes. “What kind of operation are you running here? Are you trying to kill us?”

“Hey,” Wei Ying says, hurrying forward to get between them as Nie Mingjue stalks towards the man. “Nie Mingjue, hold up!” They raise their hands defensively and take several steps back to avoid touching Nie Mingjue as he approaches. “What’s the problem here?”

“The problem? This is the problem!” he holds up a broken carabiner as one might hold a bloody knife. “You were going to hoist me 30 feet into the air with broken equipment?”

“I don’t know how—” the producer starts, but Nie Mingjue throws the carabiner at his feet. 

“I want all the equipment double-checked,” he says in a low, dangerous growl. “Or I’m walking, and I’m talking. NDA be damned.”

“Right,” the man says, scrambling back. “Right—uh. Everyone stop! We need to run an equipment check!”

“I saw them run a check earlier,” Wei Ying says as they watch the man gather the crew members to give new orders. “I know they went over everything.”

“Clearly not,” Nie Mingjue barks out. Then, he sighs. “This whole challenge is a bad idea. Hoisting a bunch of tired amateurs into the air on wires is inviting trouble. And look at the crew. They’re exhausted.”

Meng Yao makes a sympathetic sound and places a comforting hand on Nie Mingjue’s arm again, running it up and down soothingly. “It’ll be okay, da-ge,” he says consolingly. “It was just a small oversight. Nobody got hurt.”

Wei Ying watches as Meng Yao leads Nie Mingjue away. They bend down and pick up the carabiner, turning it over in their hands with a curious expression on their face before stowing it away in their pocket.

––––

Confessional

Wei Ying scans the room, clearly looking for something. There are heavy bags under their eyes, and they wear a smile so thin that it might tear at any moment.

“Where’s Kerry?”

“They won’t be here anymore,” a voice answers. A new voice, one we haven’t heard before.

“Oh? Did they have the baby? I thought it was still too early! Are they doing okay?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Wei Ying’s smile flickers, concern a winged thing that flits over their face. “Oh. Well, if there’s a baby shower fund then I want to contribute! Can someone get a card to them from me, at least?”

“Don’t worry about it,” the voice answers repressively.

Their smile is gone now. Wei Ying frowns. “Will they be back before filming ends?”

A new voice answers this time. Louder, closer to the microphone. “They won’t be back at all.”

“Laurel!”

Wei Ying turns sharply to the left. The boom mic dips into the frame. “What? What are you talking about?”

The mic moves back out of frame. Laurel doesn’t answer. 

“Kerry is not here,” the original voice says again. “We are not allowed to discuss the details. Please, take a look at the monitor. What do you think about Jiggy Stardust’s performance? Did she deserve to be in the bottom two?”

Wei Ying chews their lip and shakes their head. “Did she deserve it? Yeah. Her performance was bad . The thing I can’t figure out, though, is why.”

––––

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

This week, the queens take part in a comedy roast of JLTV president Jin Guangshan. Which queens will bring the house down, and who will get the hook? 

Episode Recap: The Roast Beast

by QIN SU

“We’ve made it! Halfway there!” the Yiling Patriarch declares as the queens enter the werk room to start a new day. 

The enthusiasm is shared, although many of the queens look more than a little misty-eyed Little Mistress’s lip stick message is tearily wiped away by Jiggy Stardust. “Who will I tease now?” Miss Jingyi bemoans. “Nobody else is half as fun.”

Luckily for Miss Jingyi and for us, though, Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren have plans to ensure that this week is fun for everyone. And what better way to entertain than by opening the library?

The barbs start flying, and one thing is crystal clear as Jiggy Stardust and Fangela duke it out: never cross a drag queen.

Fangela is crowned the winner, and before Lan Qiren can announce the maxi challenge there’s a commotion as stand-up comedienne Mianmian bursts into the room amid a flurry of confetti and startled laughter. “I hope you’re hungry, because it’s time for a roast!”

Fangela earns the privilege of determining the order of the queens for the upcoming roast of none other than her Imminence, the Unflappable, Unruffled Gusu Drag Race judge and creator Lan Qiren. 

In addition to preparing a routine for the roast, queens are also tasked with a runway challenge. The category is: Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Baoshan Sanren explains that the queens will need to make a runway worthy look entirely out of newspaper.

With their plates full for the week, the queens get started on putting together their jokes and their looks. 

Mianmian coaches the queens, providing back valuable critique on their routines. Some queens are clearly cut out for comedy—Miss Jingyi, Jiggy Stardust, and the Yiling Patriarch are standouts during rehearsal, and earn accolades for their final performance as well. 

On the other side of things, though, Hanguang Jun and Sandu Shengshou are struggling. “You’re too stiff,” Mianmian advises Hanguang Jun. “You need to loosen up!”

“You’re too mean,” she tells Sandu Shengshou. “You can be mean, but you’ve also got to be funny.”

But the night of the roast anything can happen, and in an unexpected twist the Yiling Patriarch tanks her performance, and is told that tonight she will be lip syncing for her life.“It wasn’t funny,” Baoshan Sanren tells her on the runway. “And this look isn’t so great either.”

What is great, though, is Miss Jingyi’s overall performance for the week, earning her first win of the season. “This is the best we’ve seen you look,” Lan Qiren says. “Keep it up.”

Hanguang Jun and Sandu Shengshou stand before the judges. Both, they are told, need to learn to branch out. They can’t just be one trick queens. Eventually, Hanguang Jun is called safe, leaving Sandu Shengshou and the Yiling Patriarch to lip sync for their lives to Bad Blood by Taylor Swift.

Sandu Shengshou isn’t known as a dancing queen for nothing. She gives it her all, with a dazzling mix of stunts and heart on stage, securing her spot for another week. The Yiling Patriarch sashays away. 

Seven queens remain. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 8: Dancing Divas. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

Wei Ying knows an ambush when they see it. Given, they didn’t see it until the moment they entered the cafe and spotted Jiang Yanli sitting at a crowded table, a pram at her side, at which point it had been far too late to do anything about said ambush, but … they needed to take whatever wins they could get.

“Wei Ying!” 

Wei Ying grimaces, but then quickly plasters on a smile and returns Wen Ning’s cheery wave and does their best to pretend that they are fighting to keep their stomach inside their body. Heads turn towards them, and Wei Ying is further nauseated to see that the whole gang is, in fact, here. Jiang Yanli’s smile is both reassuring, and twisting their insides into further knots of guilt. Thankfully, Jiang Cheng is there to provide a scowl that is, if not comforting, at least familiar and closer to what Wei Ying knows they deserve.

Screwing up their courage, Wei Ying walks up to the table. It feels like walking a narrow plank, with nothing but sharks for miles. “Hey!” they say, shooting for casual, but landing somewhere closer to over-caffeinated, despite the devastating lack of coffee in their veins. “I’m just gonna go—”

“No you are not ,” Jiang Cheng snaps, his hand shooting out viper-fast to catch their elbow. “Sit the fuck down.”

“I was going to say , I’m just going to get a drink,” Wei Ying whined, trying and failing to free their arm from his grip. “Unless … aw, do you miss me that badly, A-Cheng?”

“Who would miss you?”

“I would.” Jiang Yanli places a gentle hand over Jiang Cheng’s. His grip relaxes under her touch. Wei Ying takes a step back, their arm free as their eyes begin to burn. 

“A-jie,” they whisper, voice cracking. “I’m sorry. I—”

“Go get a drink, A-Ying,” she interrupts with a smile. “We’ll be right here.”

Mianmian and Wen Ning nod in agreement, although Jiang Cheng and Wen Qing notably do not. Wei Ying swallows and hurries over to the bar.

This is, they think, possibly the worst timing imaginable. When Wen Ning had invited them to coffee today, they’d agreed because they knew they’d need a good dose of caffeine and good feelings for the day ahead. As it was, this was going to take a toll, and Wei Ying needed to be in a good place today. They had things to do. 

It is Friday. That hadn’t meant much the past couple of weeks, admittedly, as Wei Ying hadn’t been working. But tonight—well. 

They place their order—black coffee, there’s no room for fiddling with milk or sugar today—and steel themself before heading back to the table. Again, they’re hit with a sense of a person standing before a firing squad. 

“Alright,” they take the chair between Wen Ning and Mianmian—it feels the most neutral—“shoot.”

“Is that all you have to say?” Jiang Cheng snaps at them. “Use your eyes , idiot.”

Wei Ying blinks, uncertain what Jiang Cheng means. Jiang Yanli laughs quietly and rolls her eyes. “A-Ying, meet your nephew.”

The pram. Holy shit, the pram . Wei Ying gasps, launching to their feet and nearly spilling their coffee in the process. “Oh my god, you brought him? Oh my god, oh my god! Can I see?”

Mianmian snorts and elbows them in the hip. “Why do you think we brought him? Since someone wouldn’t come visit.”

“I—”

“Mianmian,” Jiang Yanli scolds gently. They’re eyes lock and some silent communication passes between them. Whatever is said, Mianmian just shakes her head. “He’s asleep right now,” Jiang Yanli says to Wei Ying. “But come around and say hi. You can meet him properly when he wakes up. I don’t know why they say babies sleep so much, he never seems to stay down for more than an hour at a time.”

Wei Ying hurries around the table to kneel at the pram and peer inside. “Holy shit.”

Hey– !”

Wei Ying clamps their mouth shut against the torrent of affectionate swears that bubble up in them. Tucked into the pram, swaddled in a yellow and gold blank in a tiny knit, is the roundest baby they have ever seen. “A-jie,” Wei Ying says after they swallow down the lumpiest of the feelings. “He’s … he’s …” Wei Ying blinks hard and swallows again. “He’s so fat !”

Jiang Yanli laughs, a loud startled laugh. It catches around the group in a wave until the bright sound fills the small cafe. Rulan squirms, a serious frown screwing up his face. Wei Ying stares with wide eyes, then turns back to the group. “He looks just like Jiang Cheng.”

“What? You—!” Jiang Cheng scowls at them. The resemblance is so astounding that Wei Ying can’t hold back. They laugh too, louder and longer than they’ve laughed in weeks. Loud enough that Rulan wakes and adds a healthy baby scream to the ruckus. 

“I’ve got him,” Jiang Yanli says, hurrying forward and scooping the agitated baby bundle up into her arms. 

They settle in around the table again after that, Rulan tucked up against Jiang Yanli’s chest. Mianmian scoots closer, pressing her side up against Jiang Yanli’s with a protective, proud aura. Wei Ying smiles at them, their heart clenching with happy melancholy. Seeing them that way, so happy and unified and beaming with love … Wei Ying doesn’t begrudge them their happiness, of course, but there is something in their chest that aches with a bruised longing they can’t define ... 

“So,” Wen Qing says after a pause. 

Wei Ying feels their spine stiffen, sitting up straighter. They take a careful sip of their coffee, preparing themself.

“I think we should get started.”

Wen Ning fidgets at Wei Ying’s side. Wei Ying wants to comfort him, but isn’t sure what to say. Wei Ying isn’t the one who planned this ambush, after all. They’re just hoping to find a way to the other side of it with as little damage as possible.

Mianmian and Jiang Yanli lock eyes, and Mianmian nods. Jiang Cheng summons an even worse scowl than usual. Here we go , Wei Ying thinks.

“You haven’t been going to work,” Wen Qing launches in.

“I’ve been busy.”

“You haven’t been answering your phone.”

“Again, I’m busy—”

“You haven’t been eating.”

“How do you—you don’t know that—”

“A-Ying.”

Wei Ying’s mouth snaps shut as Jiang Yanli shifts Rulan in her arms. He fusses, but she ignores him, reaching across the table to take Wei Ying’s hand. “A-Ying, we’re worried about you.”

Don’t , they want to say. Don’t worry about me . It was what they’d said to Lan Zhan, after all. But here, surrounded by their family, with Jiang Yanli booking at them like that , they can’t get the words out. Embarrassingly, they feel their eyes start to sting as the cafe goes watery around them. 

“I’m fine,” they manage. It comes out choked.

“No, idiot, you’re obviously not,” Jiang Cheng snaps. “You’re tanking your entire fucking career. Why? Is this what you do with a second chance?”

Wei Ying opens their mouth to answer. Then, closes it again. They shake their head. “I … I have reasons.”

“Do you?” Jiang Cheng hisses. “The same reason that you threw the roast? The same reason that you didn’t even try during the lip sync?”

“What? A-Cheng, what are you—”

“You didn’t even try! ” Jiang Cheng roars at them, launching to his feet to lean across the table and shove a finger in Wei Ying’s face. “You just … you just gave up . We said we were going to do this, and you just. You just quit! Did you think I couldn’t take it? That I wasn’t worth competing against? That I didn’t stand a chance against the great and talented Yiling Patriarch?”

“What? I—No!”

“Then why did you do it?”

“Not everything’s about you , Sandu!” Wei Ying snipes back, temper flaring. “Some things are more important than some stupid tv show!”

Wen Qing reaches up and grabs Jiang Cheng by the elbow, yanking him sharply back into his seat with surprising strength. She keeps a quelling hand on his shoulder as she levels a look at Wei Ying.  “Like the union?”

Wei Ying, mouth open, prepared to defend themself, freezes. Wen Qing sighs, and they know the jig is up. Wei Ying blinks and looks away. “They’re ruining lives.”

Jiang Cheng snorts in frustration. “What does that have to do with you, though?”

“A-Cheng,” Jiang Yanli says in her gentle, firm way. “Let them speak.”

Wei Ying draws in a deep breath. They were all going to find out eventually, they tell themself. It might as well be now. “It doesn’t have anything to do with me,” they say, pushing their coffee away. “Or, it didn’t. But … but it isn’t right. They were forcing people to work in dangerous situations. Long hours. Not giving them time off. They fired Kerry for taking parental leave. They’re blacklisting anyone who tries to stand up to them, making up lies and spreading it through the industry. They can’t do that . And it’s not just that, either. Something rotten was going on. You know it, Jiang Cheng. You saw it. I don’t know what it was, but I thought—”

“You thought you could fix it by getting yourself ousted?” Jiang Cheng interrupts. “How does that help anyone?”

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Wei Ying says in a quiet voice. “It might have been stupid, but I—I just wanted to do something —”

“And make me look like an idiot in the process.”

“A-Cheng—”

“No, jiejie! They always do this! Throw themselves on the sword without thinking anything through! I’m sick of it.”

“I do not—”

“Look, asshole,” Jiang Cheng leans forward, his eyes locked on Wei Ying. “You’re making things worse. You want to help? Getting kicked off the show didn’t help, and neither will this. What you’re doing now. Get your ass back out to shows and prove that you’re okay, or people are going to keep assuming the worst. Which only makes sense, because you are the worst. But who can you help like this?”

Wei Ying sighs heavily, letting their head fall forward and catching it in their hands. “I know, didi,” they say through the choked up feeling in their chest. “I know. I was wrong, I got it all wrong. But I’m—I’m working on it.”

“What does that mean?” Wen Qing asks suspiciously. “What are you working on?” 

“I—I have a plan. An idea,” Wei Ying says, sitting up straight again and taking a fortifying breath as they turn to Mianmian. “But I need your help.”

––––

hey
I got ur number from mianmian
this is Yiling Patriarch
Friday, 12:27 PM

[UNKNOWN NUMBER]
rly?
Friday, 12:35 PM

[photo attachment]
Friday, 12:37 PM

[UNKNOWN NUMBER]
well shit
uh
Im a big fan!
what can i do for you?
Friday, 12:44 PM

Id like to hire you
im going to need some dresses
Friday, 12:46 PM

Something’s Fishy on Drag Race: Season 5 Extra

Hello, my little canaries. Weren’t expecting to hear from me today, huh? Well, I’m breaking the schedule this week to bring you a very special extra, featuring some extra special tea.

I’ve heard all your questions, I’ve sifted through the conjecture, and, most importantly, and your Songbird has done some digging. 

Suffice to say, all is not as it seems on season 5.

Let’s go through it, shall we?

The Abundance of Jins

A topic of much speculation since the cast list was announced, the abundance of Jin queens struck many as suspicious from the very start, given the show's new home on JinLinTV.
It’s more than just coincidence. JinLinTV is just one branch of the Jin entertainment conglomerate JinLinCO. A conglomerate which includes entertainment company and agency Carp Corp, which has been training up idols and entertainers for generations. Including this year’s crop of Jin queens: Peony Gold, Jinny Xun, The Little Mistress and Jiggy Stardust.
Is it a coincidence, or is it a cash grab? 

The Elimination of Jins

Songbird, you say, how can it be both? I’m sure I don’t know, but there’s no doubt that the Jins are dropping like flies on a season where they should be dominating. Peony Gold was the frontrunner coming into the season, only to be eliminated on the second episode. Was she really the worst? We all saw that episode, and Jinny Xun was right there . “But songbird, Jinny Xun is a Jin queen too!” She sure is, and she’s a Jin queen who never had a shot at the crown.
Then, we have the Little Mistress’s lip sync against Jiggy Stardust, ultimately resulting in her elimination. The real question here is, what was Jiggy Stardust doing in the bottom two at all?

The Aerial Episode Edit

Last week’s episode featured death-defying feats in the air, suspended by wires as the queens performed live before the judges. The act went off without a hitch … if the edit is to be believed.
But as many racers have been quick to point out in many, many, many videos, there may be another story.
What was that hard cut midway through the rehearsal? Was it really filmed across two different days? Why was Minge Gay checking the equipment in the background of the shot of Miss Jingyi? And what did the Little Mistress mean when she asked, “are you sure it’s safe now?” Was it really just her nerves, or had something already happened?

The Eye Bags Factor

It’s no secret that filming Drag Race is stressful and demanding. Each season, we watch our brave queens persevere (or, in some cases, crumble) in the face of producers hellbent on driving them towards the brink in the name of reality-tv-gold.
But this season, the queens seem even more worn down than usual. One need only look at the Yiling Patriarch’s eye bags to know that something is weighing heavy on the queens of season 5. And speaking of Yiling …

The Thrown Lip Sync

We all saw it. No matter how tired Yiling may be, we all saw Yiling’s lip sync against Jinny Xun back in episode 3. The Yiling we saw last night was not the same queen. Why did Yiling throw in the towel? Was she ready to go home, fed up with the hard work and long hours, as many watchers have implied? Or is there something more sinister happening here?

What do you think? Is this a smoke and fire situation, or are we all seeing things that aren’t there? If there is something fishy afoot, what’s the end game? And who stands to benefit?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. 

We may just have to wait and see how this one plays out, unless somebody starts talking.

Until next week, my canaries.

~Songbird

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188 LIKES | 60 COMMENTS

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Chapter Text

Episode Summary

It’s time to boots the house down! This week we pay homage to all the divas with a singing and dancing challenge that will have our queens coming down with a case of Disco Fever. Season 2 winner Song Lan returns as guest choreographer to show them what it means to be divalicious. 

Episode Recap: Dancing Divas

by QIN SU

It’s a new week, and a new challenge for our final seven queens! We’ve whittled our way down from the original fourteen—and now the real competition begins. 

The queens are subdued as they enter the work room. The Yiling Patriarch’s final message to them in black lipstick spans the entire length of the mirror, signed off “Good news, everyone! The Yiling Patriarch is dead! I have no regrets. Love you all! (But Yuanna Wen’s my favorite)”

“I thought I was the favorite,” Fangela pouts at the mirror as Sandu Shengshou begins to scrub the message away. 

“Don’t be stupid,” Miss Jingyi retorts. “Hanguang Jun is the real favorite.”

Before they arrive at any conclusion, though, the alarm sounds and Gu-Mail arrives. “Here at Gusu’s Drag Race, we embrace the traditional arts,” Lan Qiren delivers in a signature deadpan. “Singing, dancing, and, of course … puppetry.”

With that, the screen goes blank, and Baoshan Sanren enters the room. “Hello, queens! I hope you’re ready, because today’s mini-challenge will be: puppets! And why?”

“Everybody loves puppets!” chorus the queens on cue.

The mini-challenge involves drawing a puppet representing a fellow queen out of a box, and then doing your best impression as you drag your puppet sister through the metaphorical mud. To no one’s surprise, Fangela and Miss Jingyi excel at the task, with Miss Jingyi earning the win and snatching up a prize of $1000 in drag jewels in the process.

Now comes the real fun. 

This week’s maxi challenge, Baoshan Sanren announces, is a songwriting, singing, and dancing challenge. Queens are tasked with writing and recording lyrics describing why they deserve the win, which they will later lip sync to as they perform choreography by the original dancing queen Song Lan. 

“Remember,” Baoshan Sanren says, “we want to know why you deserve to be the Next Drag Superstar!”

From the get-go, it’s clear that Yuanna Wen and Jiggy Stardust have an advantage in the challenge ahead. Both queens have experience singing live, and are happy to share their knowledge with the other queens. Minge Gay seems particularly nervous, admitting that she’s not much of a singer or dancer. Sandu Shengshou, meanwhile, for all her dancing skills flounders when it comes time to record.

Surprising everyone, though, is Hanguang Jun. Her turn at the mic is an unexpected ballad—and she has the baritone to back it up. In the words of Miss Jingyi, “Holy shit.”

Dance practice goes smoothly, for the most part. With the exception of Minge Gay and Miss Jingyi, the remaining queens are all skilled dancers who pick up choreography quickly. Fangela and Jiggy Stardust provide what help they can to Minge Gay, while Miss Jingyi does her best to keep up without dragging Yuanna Wen and Hanguang Jun down with her. 

As ready as they’ll ever be, it’s time to perform. And that’s when everything starts to fall apart from the very beginning. 

Yuanna Wen struts onto the stage in her best Britney—complete with albino python—and her heels snaps, sending her tumbling. She gets back to her feet quickly, but it’s clear that the accident has her rattled. 

The troubles don’t stop there, though. Midway through a pirouette, Sandu Shengshou appears to forget the words to her song. Miss Jingyi, meanwhile, struggles in the group choreography and falls back on an embarrassed jig as the queens continue to dance around her.

“A disappointing performance,” Lan Qiren announces, shaking his head. “We’re at the halfway point now, queen. We expect better. One of you truly stood out this week, though. Hanguang Jun, you took a risk, and it paid off.”

With that, Hanguang Jun wins the episode. Jiggy Stardust and Fangela follow her to stand safe at the back of the stage.

“All of your failed to live up to the standards this week,” Lan Qiren says to Minge Gay, Yuanna Wen and Miss Jingyi. “If you make it to next week, know that we expect better. You need to bring everything, every week. There is no room for error here. Minge Gay. You’re safe.”

This leaves Gusu’s Drag Race best friends Miss Jingyi and Yuanna Wen to battle out and lip sync for their lives to I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston.

It’s a heart-wrenching lip sync, as Miss Jingyi and Yuanna Wen perform together, dancing as a pair even as they fight to stay for another week. In the end, the judges decide that Yuanna Wen has shown herself to be more well rounded, and it’s Miss Jingyi who sashays away. 

Six queens remain. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 10: Look at the Material. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

The club is crowded. Wei Ying isn’t surprised, exactly, but still. They sit in the backroom and focus on their breathing. They’ve done this hundreds of times. Thousands, maybe. It’s just another show. They can do this.

“You’re here!”

They look up at Lan Jingyi’s happy, startled face, and smile. “Such a tone of surprise!” they say, clutching the heart in mock offense. “So disrespectful to your elders! What would Lan Qiren say?”

“He’d probably be too busy yelling at you for flaking out to even bother with me,” Lan Jingyi says, plopping into the chair at Wei Ying’s side to share the mirror. “Seriously. We thought you were … you know. Dead, or something.”

Wei Ying forces out a laugh and shrugs. “Alive and kicking,” they say. “No one’s getting rid of me that easily.”

“Well. Good. I hate doing these shows alone. Especially tonight.”

“Oh,” Wei Ying says, searching Miss Jingyi’s face in the mirror. “Is tonight–?”

“Yeah.” Lan Jingyi sighs and then tips forward onto the table, his head landing with a thunk. “Ugh, I do not want to do this.”

Wei Ying clucks their tongue sympathetically and reaches out to run a comforting hand over his back. “It’s not that bad.”

“How would you know?” Lan Jingyi grumbles into the wood tabletop. “You skipped your elimination episode.”

“Ah, well,” Wei Ying starts awkwardly. “In any case, just. I’ll do the work tonight, alright? We can make it a real softball for you.”

“Thanks,” Lan Jingyi says, voice still muffled.

“Come on,” Wei Ying pulls him up by the shoulders. “If it’s gonna be that kind of night, let’s at least make sure you look fantastic.”

––––

“What’s with the robe?” Lan Jingyi asks as they wait behind the curtain for their names to be announced to make their big entrance. 

Wei Ying shrugs, the oversized red and black robe they’re wearing slipping open, revealing a wide V of skin at the chest. “Trying something new,” they say dismissively. “That’s your name! Get out there!”

“I know what I’m doing,” Lan Jingyi rolls her eyes, and then flings the curtain open, strutting out into the spotlights. 

“That makes one of us,” Wei Ying says to themself as they hear their name called and follow Lan Jingyi out onto the stage.

––––

r/GususDragRace· Posted by u/bae_ying 2 hours ago
787  YLP protest dress

Ahhh! I am so excited! Yiling is finally back! I’ve missed my spooky queen. She’s by far the most interesting queen of the season, and not having her around the watch parties made the season way too boring.

BUT can we pleeeeease talk about THAT DRESS???

She got me, I’ll admit. At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on—why is YP wearing white? And a flower? Kinda tame, ngl. But then when she did …. WHATEVER it was that she did and the flower burned up like she was freaking Katniss Everdeen at the Drag Hunger Games?

ICONIC.

But what did the message mean? Like I get the whole “support workers’ rights” idea, but does it go deeper than that? 🤔

It looked normal enough at first. A little tame for Yp, if anything: a gold dress with a big white peony on the chest … not not reminiscent of the JLTV logo. Partway through the watch party, though, she did something and the flower just sort of burned up like she was Katniss Everdeen riding out to the Hunger Games, revealing the message: “Support Workers’ Rights”. So now, I’ve gotta ask: what bad blood is there between YP and JLTV?

     number1fangela · 2h

     idk what the tea is but something stinks and i think its fish—looking at you carp corp 👀

     201

     suememeimei · 2h

     probably just mad that they got eliminated lol sry honey but youve got to be talented 💅

     22

         bae_ying · 1h

         lmfao did someone od on their hater juice this morning?

         71

             suememeimei · 20m

            not a hater lol just calling it as i see it

            5

         songlanlover · 1h

         omg sue me is that you???? xDDDD

         138

     light_loverx · 2h

     wonder if it has anything to do with this: Protests Turn Violent Outside JinLinCO HQ

     54

         bae_ying · 1h

         holy shit how have i not seen this??? This is the first im hearing of it! people were actually hospitalized? How is this not on the newS?!

         10

             CanaryInTheMine · 15m

            Easy to avoid the news cycle when you own the news.

            3

     songlanlover · 2h

     FYI - YP’s pronouns are they/them (in and out of drag). GSDR is just shitty about it.

     28

         bae_ying · 1h

         rly? Did you see that somewhere?

         2

     beefy_cheeks · 30m

     I wanna know where YP’s been this whole time. She disappears for weeks and then suddenly comes back and does this? Feels like a PR stunt to me.

     69

--------

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

They’ve got the looks, they've got the moves, but have they got the brand? This week, our queens are challenged to SELL SELL SELL in season 5’s commercial challenge. With fashion mogul Madam Yu, aka the Violet Spider, as brand coach and guest judge, these queens will have the work cut out for them!

Episode Recap: Look at the Material

by QIN SU

With six queens remaining and a disappointing performance last week, the queens enter the werk room with fresh focus and determination, ready to show the judges what they can do. And it’s a good thing, because no sooner as Yuanna Wen cleaned up Miss Jingyi’s partying missive—“Keep it twisted, queens!”—then the sirens go off and Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren arrive to announce the mini challenge.

“People have asked, why do you need to head judges?” Baoshan Sanren says. “Isn’t one enough? But we all know that two heads are truly better than one.”

For this week’s mini-challenge, queens are partnered up and must walk a runway as a Queen with Two Heads, showcasing a perfect blend of both queens’ signature styles. They draw names blindly, leaving us with three highly unlikely duos: Hanguang Jun with Sandu Shengshou, Yuanna Wen with Fangela, and Minge Gay with Jiggy Stardust.

Hanguang Jun and Sandu Shengshou struggle the most with the collaboration, hardly managing to even walk the runway in sync. Yuanna Wen and Fangela make a decent enough showing, but it’s Minge Gay and Jiggy Stardust who steal the show, using their notable height difference to their advantage.

“Genius!” Baoshan Sanre declares as they walk the runway with Jiggy Stardust riding Minge Gay’s shoulders. Lan Qiren agrees, declaring them the winners, which secures them more time with this week’s coach and guest judge: The Violet Spider herself, Madam Yu.

For the maxi challenge, each queen must dream up a fantastic product that represents her brand, and film a commercial to entice the populace into buying.

The queens get to work on putting together their vision. Sandu Shengshou struggles the most during filming—“Stop scowling at the camera!” Madam Yu tells her repeatedly. 

Yuanna Wen has the opposite problem. “What is this? All this smiling? I’m bored . Who even are you?”

That night on the mainstage, the category is “She Owns Everything!” Queens walk the runway in opulence, Hanguang Jun drawing gasps as she rounded the corner in a glittering gown with a dramatic train. “You look like you’re wearing a waterfall,” Baoshan Sanren gushes. 

“I would be proud to have a dress like this in my collection,” Madam Yu praises.

The commercials are another story. “You’re too stiff,” Lan Qiren critiques Hanguang Jun. “The performance is wooden.”

Sandu Shengshou and Yuanna Wen’s commercials also fail to impress. On the other side, Minge Gay, Fangela and Jiggy Stardust receive top praise. “You know who you are, and now we know who you are,” Lan Qiren says. “Well done.”

Before the tops and bottoms are announced, though, Lan Qiren has a question for the queens: “Who do you think should go home?”

Hanguang Jun and Yuanna Wen both name Sandu Shengshou, referencing her poor performance in the commercial and, in Hanguang Jun’s case, her lack of growth as a competitor. 

Minge Gay and Jiggy Stardust both say Yuanna Wen, referencing her inexperience and the need for her to figure out who she is. 

Sandu Shengshou names Hanguang Jun—“If she can’t keep my name out of her mouth, why shouldn’t I?”—and Fangela refuses to answer, proclaiming, “I don’t know, don’t ask me!”

With that, Jiggy Stardust is named the winner of the episode. Minge Gay and Fangela are both safe, followed by Hanguang Jun. “Your fashion saved you this week,” Lan Qiren says. “It won’t next time.”

Sandu Shengshou and Yuanna Wen face off in the lip sync to Material Girl by Madonna. Yuanna Wen is a talented performer and dancer, but Sandu Shengshou is shaking out to be this season’s lip sync assassin as she snags the win and Yuanna Wen must sashay away.

After the queens say goodbye to Yuanna Wen, though, Baoshan Sanren makes a final announcement.

“The judges have been talking,” she says. “We have decided that one of our queens was let go too soon.”

The lights go out. A familiar laugh, and a spotlight appears at the back of the runway. “I’m back!” 

Six queens remain … still! Who is the queen with a second chance? Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 10: We Are Family. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

Wei Ying shivers in the unseasonably cold early October morning. They hadn’t thought to wear a jacket—it was barely even autumn after all—and wished that they were the kind of person with the foresight to check the weather before leaving home in the morning. Then, maybe, they wouldn’t be freezing on a doorstep in the suburbs at 9am and thinking longingly of their shitty apartment with their shitty bed where at least it was warm. 

They rap their knuckles on the door impatiently. They had rung the doorbell, but it was possible it hadn’t worked. 

There’s a voice inside the home, the sound of feet, and a moment later the door opens. “Wei Ying!” Kerry says, stepping out and scooping them into a quick hug. “Come in! You look cold. Do you want anything? Coffee? Tea? Blanket?”

“Yes,” Wei Ying chatters, following them inside. “Yes, anything. All of it. Warmth .”

Kerry laughs and leads them to the living room, passing them the afghan draped over the back of the couch. “Make yourself comfortable,” Kerry said. “I’ll grab some coffee. Do you still take it the same? Four sugars?”

“Yes, please. And a little milk, if you have it.”

“Soy okay?”

“Perfect, thank you.”

Kerry bustles off to the kitchen, leaving Wei Ying clutching a blanket around their shoulders as they look around the home from the couch. 

It’s a small house—bigger than Wei Ying’s apartment, of course, but nothing like the houses they usually associate with the suburbs. Which makes sense. Wei Ying’s exposure to the suburbs as a kid had always been in affluent neighborhoods, where people’s cars cost twice as much money as Wei Ying currently makes in a year. Homes owned by friends’ families, who looked at Wei Ying as if Wei Ying was their good deed for the year. Wei Ying can’t begrudge them their hospitality and charity, though, as much as it had felt humiliating at the time. They weren’t a charity case and hated being seen that way, but they can’t deny that, without the help, things would’ve turned out very differently for Wei Ying. They could’ve ended up as another statistic—another homeless queer youth living on the streets, doing whatever was needed to survive. It had been discomfitingly close to being their reality. 

Kerry’s home, though, is nothing like the bright white, bland McMansions that had housed Wei Ying during their worst years. It’s small, but comfortable. Warm and homey in a way that makes some of the anxiety melt out of Wei Ying. 

“Here you go,” Kerry says, walking back in and handing them a steaming mug of coffee that Wei Ying takes happily. “Thanks for coming over. Shawn is out with Andi right now, but they’ll probably be back in a bit, if you want to meet them.”

“I’d love to,” Wei Ying agrees. “How are they doing?”

Kerry’s eyes light up, a contented smile uncurling shyly. “Great. They’re doing great. Shawn has been amazing . It’s incredible. She’s the best mother, I almost feel like I’m just in the way sometimes. She seems to know how to do everything, and meanwhile I’m still struggling with how to put together bottles. And Andi—well, see for yourself.”

Kerry pulls a cellphone out, opening the photo app and passing it to Wei Ying.

“Oh my god,” Wei Ying gushes, scrolling through the photos of a very plump, very pink, very round newborn. “This is too precious, I’m going to die.”

The two of them spend a little longer scrolling through baby photos, Wei Ying gushing effusively over the tiny hands and tiny feet, until they hit the end of the photo roll at last. As Kerry pockets the phone again, that atmosphere shifts, a tense anticipation settling over them.

Wei Ying decids that it’s time to get to the point. “Kerry,” they say, clutching the mug a little. The tea has gone cold, but they sip it nonetheless. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“Where should I start?” Kerry asks. “What do you know?”

“I know that something shitty was going on. I could piece a lot of it together, but it would be better to hear it from you instead of just assuming.”

“Shitty doesn’t even begin to cover it.” Kerry sighs and shakes their head. “I saw the dress last week. Who told you?”

“There was an article about a week ago. They buried it, but someone sent it to me. I figured it out from there.”

“It was a nightmare job. Not you . Not any of the queens, really. But the conditions … well. I know they were putting you all through it too–”

“We signed up for a reality television show,” Wei Ying interrupts with a smile. “We knew what we were signing up for. Drama, both manufactured and concocted, is a must in front of the camera. I wouldn’t expect the same if I was behind it.”

Kerry laughs, a hollow, bitter sort of laugh. “I was barely home at all for weeks. It was supposed to be just a regular job. Not a 9 to 5, exactly, but still. Eight hours, give or take. But it was a lot more give and no take. 

“The whole production was completely understaffed. Which is bad, yeah, but I could’ve seen past that. But … they tried to keep it from you all. Too much potential for social media exposure. But there were accidents. Bad equipment, things not being checked, everyone just being over-tired and overworked. Did you know Nina?”

Wei Ying shakes their head.

“I suppose not. She was a set designer. Built things. Used to work overnight. Completely alone, if you can imagine it. Well one of the set walls failed. Fell on her. Knocked her unconscious. She was found the next morning, while we were setting up. Concussion, dislocated shoulder. Still has memory problems, apparently. They fired her for misconduct.”

What?

“Yeah. Said it was her fault for not following proper safety procedures. But how could she? It’s what they do. They make these impossible situations. People are going to fail, and when they do, the company points to the policies and to show that it’s the employee’s fault.”

“Is that what happened to you?”

Kerry sighs again, heavier this time, running a hand through their hair. 

“Not as bad as that, but … well. They fired me when Andi was born. Told me I wasn’t reliable. I fought them about it. Went to a lawyer. But it didn’t go anywhere, and ever since I can’t find work. Everywhere I apply, I can only get so far before I hit some wall. They never say why, but I know. I know the industry. I’m blacklisted.”

“How can they do that though?” Wei Ying demands, their voice too loud. They took a deep breath, and in a quieter voice, “What about FMLA? Couldn’t you take parental leave? You should’ve been protected.”

“That's what I thought.” Kerry frowns. “But apparently not. Shawn and I aren’t married, and since I’m not the biological parent or on any of the legal paperwork yet—the adoption is still processing—it doesn’t apply. I was supposed to be able to take parental leave, though, through the company’s policies. That’s what the HR rep told me. But when it came time, I found out that rep had been fired. And there was no record of the request or the approval.”

“But everyone knew,” Wei Ying says, the frustration squeezing their throat like a fist. “We knew . You talked about it with people! How could they claim not to know?”

“I don’t know. But they did. I talked to Shawn, and I was going to tough it out through the end of the season. Just wrap up the project and then quit and avoid JinLinTV for the rest of time. But then Andi was born, and she was put straight in the neonatal ICU. I couldn’t leave Shawn to deal with that alone, so I took the time anyway. I hoped they’d understand. That they’d have a heart. Instead, they told me that I’m not … not a parent. And they terminated me for absenteeism.”

The frustration is gone, Wei Ying finds. This is bigger than that now: a column of fiery rage burning them from the inside out. “That’s disgusting.”

“It is,” Kerry said. They hesitate, then open a side table drawer and pull out a pamphlet. “And that’s not everything. I think they found out.”

Wei Ying takes the pamphlet as they pass it to them. It’s printed on light blue, glossy paper. There’s an emblem on the front showing a pair of clasped hands beneath a camera, and the words “Stronger Together.” Curious, Wie Ying flips it open, eyes skimming over the contents. 

“You were organizing a union,” they breathe, the pieces all finally slotting together.

“Not just me,” Kerry says. “There was a group of us. JLTV employees. Crew, mostly. But that’s all but dead now.”

Something in Kerry’s tone makes Wei Ying look up, meeting their eyes. “Why?”

“Because—” Kerry chews their lip in apprehension, then continues on with a shrug. “Because none of the organizers work there anymore. We were all fired. Everyone involved, even minimally. Even partners of people involved—if they’re in the industry, even not with JinLinTV—have been terminated from their companies. JLTV has a long reach.”

“There has to be something you can do,” Wei Ying insists. It was too unjust to just let it slide. There had to be something

But Kerry just shakes their head, looking defeated. “I don’t know. The lawyer said there was nothing, and without work I can’t afford the legal fees to pursue it further anyway.”

“What if,” Wei Ying starts, the spark of an idea coming to them. “What if I had a way that didn’t involve lawyers?”

Kerry tilts their head at them with a cautiously curious expression. “How do you mean?”

“I’ve already started something with the dress last week,” Wei Ying says. “People are talking. But it doesn’t have to stop there. It’s not much, but the wave of public opinion isn’t nothing. If enough people start talking, if there’s enough heat on them, then maybe they’ll be forced to change their tune.”

“I don’t know.” Kerry’s hands twist in their lap nervously, but there’s something like hope in their eyes. “It could cause a lot of trouble for you.”

“I like making trouble.” Wei Ying flashes them a grin, feeling the resolve settle around them. “Nothing wrong with a little good trouble. Like they say: be gay, do crimes.”

Kerry laughs, a little of the heaviness leaving them. “Okay,” they said. “Okay. What do you need?”

“Names, first,” Wei Ying says, reaching into their bag and pulling out their phone to take notes. “Anyone you know who it would be good to talk to. The others who were fired. The organizers.”

“Let me talk to them first. Make sure they’re okay with this.”

“Of course,” Wei Ying says, smiling a little viciously. “Let’s show those Jin fuckers what happens when they mess with the wrong people.”

––––

The club is full tonight. It’s strange, but there’s something about the loud music, the noise, the pungent smell of alcohol that has Wei Ying buzzing with anticipation—not nerves, exactly. More like … expectation .

“You seem excited,” Nie Huaisang says. “I thought you hated this gig.”

“The gig sucks,” Wei Ying agrees as they finish tying off their corset. “I’ll be glad to have this whole fucking show behind me.”

“But?” Nie Huaisang prompts from over the top of their fan.

“But.” Wei Ying exhales, the corset creaking. “But it’s good to be back at the old club.”

“I’m glad you’re back. I hate doing these alone. People don’t seem to understand—I’m not an artist, I’m the art. I’m not supposed to do the work part.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Wei Ying reassures her as they step into the dress, shimmying it up over the plush mounds of the hips. 

Nie Huaisang watches them, the dramatic arch of her eyebrows lifting even higher as she takes in the outfit. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes,” Wei Ying says. “Now help me with this zipper.”

Nie Huaisang clicks her tongue, but tugs the zipper up into place and secures the eyehook. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” she says quietly. “Because you’re playing with fire.”

“The whole world’s on fire, Fangela.” Wei Ying turns to her, eyes glowing with determination. “If I’m gonna get burned, I might as well play a little bit first.”

Nie Huaisang opens her mouth, then closes it again and shakes her head. “Go finish up,” she says. “Your lipstick’s a mess and we’re on in five.”

With a shrug, Wei Ying takes the cloak they have draped over a nearby chair, swings it around their shoulders, and ties it closed. “It goes with the look.”

––––

Watching the episode unfold, Wei Ying is struck with just how lucky they were to avoid this particular week in the werk room. Madam Yu is ruthless, as expected, and leaves a trail of eviscerated queens in her wake. 

Nobody’s good enough under the Violet Spider’s sharp eyes. Nie Huaisang is practically wilting in her chair at Wei Ying’s side when her segment with Madam Yu airs. 

“Fangela, you look like you’re going to vomit,” Wei Ying says. “Do you need a drink? Some water?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Nie huaisang says as she sinks into her feathered coat, her fan working overtime. “Whiskey, on the rocks. Top shelf, not of that well swill, I have a delicate constitution.”

She doesn’t appear to be addressing anyone in particular, so Wei Ying can’t help but laugh as the drink arrives a heartbeat later and she takes a hearty swig. “Neat trick,” they say. “Could’ve done with a little bit of liquid courage to face the Violet Spider.”

“One does not require courage to face off against Madam Yu,” Nie Huaisang says darkly. “One need only the wisdom to acknowledge their own defeat.”

Around them, the room erupts into appreciative laughter and catcalls. Wei Ying’s heartbeat quickens. The time is coming. Ten more minutes, and the judging will start, and then—

Time flies by. Wei Ying barely pays attention. The patter is the easy part—Wei Ying doesn’t need to focus to talk. They keep up their end of the performance, setting up the metaphorical t-ball for Nie Huaisang to hit. This is the part they’re good at. Crowd work. Cracking jokes. Keeping things light and easy even as they feel as though their chest is about to spill open at any moment. 

Finally, the moment arrives. 

“The judges have been talking,” Baoshan Sanren’s voice echoes in the room. “We have decided that one of our queens was let go too soon.”

An excited whisper picks up in the club. The room goes dark as the lights of the show dim. “I’m back!”

The screen goes entirely black, and the credits roll. The club is completely silent, save for the Gusu’s Drag Race theme song. 

“What?!” somebody yells. 

That’s all it takes. The room breaks open into chaos, excitedly shouting theories for a moment before turning to the stage where Nie Huaisang and Wei Ying sit.

...sat, that is. Nie Huaisang elegantly exited at some point during the commotion. Probably when the lights went down, Wei Ying thinks. No doubt she anticipated what was coming.

Wei Ying says nothing. Instead, they stand, raising their arms. The room falls into an anticipatory hush. With slightly trembling fingers, Wei Ying unknots the tie at their throat. The cloak slithers down from their shoulders as though in slow motion. The white dress shines even in the relatively dim club. They give the crowd a moment to take notice that it is the same dress from last week, before they bend down and scratch one long manicured nail over the hidden lettering. 

It ignites. The crowd gasps as bits of the dress flare bright red, then fall away, revealing a name: Kerry Harmon .

They stand there, just long enough for a few clubbers to pull out their phones, the flashes popping in the dark room. 

There are more questions. More people pushing forward. Lifting their hand to their mouth, Wei Ying stares out at the crowd for one more moment, the span of a few more camera flashes, then turns and leaves.

––––

Aired Footage

Yuanna Wen stands on a greenscreen set, wearing a red and orange dress with structured panels that fan out around her. She looks as though she is on fire.

“Is that it?” Madam Yu says, tapping one long purple finger impatiently against her clipboard. 

An uncertain look passes over Yuanna Wen’s face, temporarily marring her smile. “Yes?” she says. “Did you want more?”

“More than what?” Madam Yu leans back in her chair and shakes her head. “You haven’t given me anything.”

“Oh.” Yuanna Wen frowns, thinking hard. “Was there something specific, or—”

“No,” Madam Yu rises from her seat, shaking her head and clicking her tongue. “I don’t think you have anything else to give me. You’re pretty,” she looks Yuanna Wen over and sighs, “but if you’re only pretty, then you’ve got to figure out how to make that work for you. And you haven’t.
With that, Madam Yu drops her clipboard into the chair and exits the set, leaving a stunned Yuanna Wen behind.

––––

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

The family that slays together, stays together. This week, our queens are putting it to the test as they pair up with their real life friends and family and are challenged to transform them into their new drag sister. Plus! A new queen has entered the competition—or should we say, an old one?

Aired Footage

Five queens stand on the stage facing the judges, having just said their goodbyes to Yuanna Wen. Hanguang Jun and Sandu Shengshou stand on the left, Minge Gay, Fangela and Jiggy Stardust on the right, as they wait for the music.

It doesn’t play. Instead, Baoshan Sanren clears her throat. “I have an announcement,” she says, looking at each of the queens in turn. “The judges have been talking, and we have decided that one of our queens was let go too soon.”

Beside her, Lan Qiren’s scowl deepens, jaw tight. The lights go out with a dramatic violin sting, followed by a ringing laugh. Hanguang Jun and Sandu Shengshou turn toward the sound—each looking both hopeful and apprehensive. 

A spotlight appears at the back of the runway, and a moment later a figure emerges cloaked in black, a thick viscous fog rolling out with them. 

The queens watch—Fangela peeking over the top of her fan with a crinkle to her eyes—as the cloak drops to the ground revealing a slim figure in a nude bodysuit glittering with crystal blood drips, arms lifted over their head. 

The Yiling Patriarch locks eyes with the camera and smiles, then cries out in a singsong, “I’m back!” 

Episode Recap: We Are Family

by QIN SU

It’s the gag of the season!

First there were five … until there were six again, as the Yiling Patriarch reenters the competition for a second chance. “Make the most of it,” Baoshan Sanren tells her. “We don’t all get a take two.”

Two, as it turns out, is the theme of the week. No sooner than the queens have entered the werk room the next day than Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren from behind a large theater curtain appear wearing matching robes to announce the maxi challenge.

“There will be no runway this week,” Lan Qiren tells them. 

“We daresay you’ll have your hands full with this week’s challenge. But you know what they say—everything’s better with two.”

The curtain drops to a chorus of excited shouts. 

“This week!” Baoshan Sanren yells over the noise, “you will be tasked with making drag a family affair! You must give your loved one a drag makeover and a matching persona, with a strong drag family resemblance. At the end of the week, you will walk the runway together for the judges, and the pair with the twinningest pair will be the winningest pair. Got it?”

With that, the judges depart and the queens rush forward to embrace their friends and family.

Causing the biggest scene is the return of season 2 runner-up Zewu Jun—Hanguang Jun’s drag sister and real life sibling! 

The queens are off, spending the week designing coordinating looks for the runway and teaching their partners to strut their stuff. It’s smooth sailing for pairs led by Hanguang Jun, Jiggy Stardust and Fangela, as their partners take to sky-high heels like ducks to water. 

The Yiling Patriarch’s partner, longtime friend Wen Ning, struggles with coming out of their shell in the werk room, while Minge Gay has the opposite problem as Nie Zonghui’s no-nonsense, competitive persona begins to ruffle feathers. 

Meanwhile, Sandu Shengshou has a unique challenge with sister Jiang Yanli, who is 5 months pregnant and unable to perform the queen’s signature dance moves in her condition. 

It’s a different story on the runway, though. The Yiling Patriarch introduces Wen Ning’s drag persona, The Ghost General, who storms the runway with confidence hitherto unseen by the previously shy young man, winning them the top spot in their comeback episode. 

In contrast, Jiggy Stardust and her sister Qin Su, aka Minnie Moonshine, have a knock down drag out fight before hitting the runway and the conflict bleeds into their performance. The poor performance places Jiggy Stardust in the bottom two.

Minge Gay and Sandu Shengshou also failed to impress the judges this week: Minge Gay’s family resemblance was weak, whereas Sandu Shengshou’s fashion was strong but the walk lacked character.

Ultimately, Minge Gay is safe, and Sandu Shengshou joins Jiggy Stardust in the bottom two to lip sync for their lives to Sorry Not Sorry by Demi Lovato. It’s an epic performance, applauded by all queens and judges. But Sandu Shengshou’s dancing and stunts don’t quite save her, and she sashays away.

Five queens remain as we rapidly approach the season finale. Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for episode 10: We Got the Green. Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

Aired footage

Confessional

Sandu Shengshou (Jiang Cheng): Of course I’m not glad to see them back. Who would be glad to see them? It’s a competition. If they couldn’t cut it, why should they get a second chance?

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Confessional

Jiggy Stardust (Meng Yao): I’m not worried about it. The real competition isn’t about what other people can do. It’s about what you can do. The Yiling Patriarch doesn’t concern me.

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Confessional

Minge Gay (Nie Mingjue): Who else would it have been? I liked the kids fine, but if they were gonna bring anyone back, of course it was Yiling.

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Confessional

Hanguang Jun (Lan Zhan): They are back. That is all. It does not matter why.

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Confessional

Fangela (Nie Huaisang): I’m sure they had their reasons for bringing them back. As for what they are? 

She snaps her fan open and flutters it over the bottom half of their face.

Fangela (Nie Huaisang): I’m sure I don’t know.

––––

Unaired Footage

“Jiejie!” Wei Ying leaps through the crowd of queens and guests as if to tackle Jiang Yanli into a hug.

“A-Ying!” 

Jiang Yanli holds her arms out to him, but Jiang Cheng steps between them, catching Wei Ying by the shoulder.

“Be careful, idiot!” he snaps, pushing Wei Ying back slightly. “She’s pregnant! You’re going to hurt her!”

“They’re not going to hurt me, A-Cheng,” Jiang Yanli says as she ducks between them to wrap her arms around Wei Ying’s waist. “I am not so delicate I can’t get hugs from my siblings!”

This is met with a dubious scowl from Jiang Cheng, but Jiang Yanli simply reaches out and pulls him into the hug as well. 

“I’m so proud of you both!” she whispers to them, just loud enough for the microphones to pick up. “You’re doing so well.”

“Some of us,” Jiang Cheng says, squeezing Jiang Yanli before pulling back to level a steely glare at Wei Ying. “Others are just lucky.”

A-Cheng,” Jiang Yanli turns on him with a frown. 

“It’s okay, a-jie,” Wei Ying says, releasing her and stepping back. “He’s right, after all. I am really lucky.”

The muscle in Jiang Cheng’s jaw twitches as though he is chewing on something particularly tough. “Yeah well, maybe don’t be so ungrateful and throw it away this time.”

“A-Cheng...” Jiang Yanli says again with a mix of reprimand and concern.

“It’s okay, a-jie,” Wei Ying smiles weakly at her, then looks back at Jiang Cheng. “He’s right. And I won’t.”

“Whatever,” Jiang Cheng huffs. “Come on, a-jie, we’ve got work to do. Can you walk in heels like this? Is it safe?”

“I am not made of glass. I’ll be fine.”

Wei Ying watches as they walk away, a complicated look on their face. 

“Are you okay?” 

Behind them, Wen Ning watches Wei Ying with apprehension. Wei Ying takes a deep breath, their shoulders rising and falling slowly, before they spin and fix Wen Ning with a beaming smile.

“A-Ning, I can’t believe you’re here!” Wei Ying shouts, bringing Wen Ning back in for yet another crushing hug. 

Wen Ning stoops as Wei Ying throws themself around his neck with their full weight, awkwardly patting their back even as he smiles, clearly pleased.

“I wasn’t allowed to tell you,” he says apologetically. “I wasn’t sure if they’d bring me in anyway. A-jie—”

“I thought they would ask Qing-jie!” Wei Ying laughs as they let go of Wen Ning’s neck at last. “But then they had her on as a guest choreo, so I knew they wouldn’t be able to have her in for the makeover episode. I’m really glad you’re here, though! How’re you doing with all of this? Feeling okay?”

Wen Ning’s smile turns a little wooden, his eyes darting around the room a bit like a scared animal. “Oh, I’m fine,” he says. 

“Don’t worry.” Wei Ying reaches out and squeezes his elbow reassuringly. “I’ve got you.”

––––

The queens stand in the wings, waiting for the cue to start their final runway walks. It’s been a long day of filming. They’re on their third take already, and they’re beginning to show some wear and tear. 

“Has anyone seen Mo Xuanyu?” Fangela asks, looking around frantically. “They were going to the bathroom, but it’s been ten minutes.”

“Hey, deep breaths,” Minge Gay places a large hand on her shoulder. Nie Zonghui mirrors the action on Fangela’s other side. “They’re not going to start without them. It’s just us. We can wait.”

“Speak for yourselves,” Sandu Shengshou snaps at them, her arms crossed tightly over her chest. “A-jie is pregnant. She shouldn’t be on her feet for this long! It’s bad for the baby!”

“The baby is fine,” Jiang Yanli says consolingly. “I’m fine, A-Cheng.”

“I’m here! I’m here!” 

Mo Xuanyu rushes forward, Qin Su following slowly in their wake. “Sorry! Got a little lost.”

“Lost?” Wei Ying asks, scrunching their nose. “How did you get lost? It’s literally just around—”

“Who cares?” Nie Huaisang grabs Mo Xuanyu’s wrist, pulling them to the front of the line. “You remember your cue? Don’t forget, we turn on three—”

“—Then tell me what this means!”

“A-Su, please.” Jiggy Stardust is standing at the back of the line with Qin Su, who is waving a paper at them accusingly. “Please, can we talk about this later?” Her eyes dart to the watching queens, then back to Qin Su. “In private, perhaps?”

“You can just tell me if it’s true.”

“Now isn’t the time to—”

“So you won’t even deny it?”

Jiggy Stardust, noticing the other queens have turned to watch the scene, takes Qin Su by the arm and leads her away from the others, speaking quietly the whole time. 

“Yikes,” Yiling says, eyes following them as they move away. “Should someone check on them? What’s all that about?”

“I don’t know,” Fangela says, as she reaches up to straighten Mo Xuanyu’s wig, which has gone slightly lopsided. “Don’t ask me.”

––––

INTERVIEW WITH A RETURNED QUEEN: THE YILING PATRIARCH

Hello my canaries!

This week, in addition to our recap, I have a special little treat for you. Given how delicious this season has proven to be with serving up the drama—both on and off screen—this songbird couldn't help but try to get a little more of that flavor for you.

Which is why I reached out to none other than returned queen and pot-stirrer Yiling Patriarch for an interview. Of course they agreed—who wouldn't want to talk to yours truly?

SONGBIRD : Thank you for agreeing to this interview! As I’m sure you know, GSDR fans have a lot of questions about your re-entrance into the show … and also about what’s been going on lately. But first thing’s first: how have you been?

YILING : Thanks for talking to me! Seriously, this is great, and I'm super-honored to get to talk to the one and only Songbird, hahaha ;)

It’s been crazy. And not really in an all good way, you know? But I think I know what you’re really asking. And I'm doing fine. I know it scared a lot of people when I went off the grid for a while there, but there’s no big mystery or health problem or anything. I just ran out of steam and needed a break from everything before *I* broke.

SONGBIRD : What’s it like to be back to performing and Watch Parties now that you’re back on the show?

YILING : Dramatic, honestly. Getting eliminated sucks pretty bad, but the second chance … I’m grateful, you know, that the judges wanted to bring me back—Baoshan Sanren anyway, I’m still not sure Lan Qiren had much say in it, did you see his face?—but it’s like being under a microscope at all times. Everything you do is picked apart and criticized, everyone asking, do they deserve it ?

SONGBIRD : Speaking of being under a microscope, certainly no queen has been gathering as much scrutiny online as you have these past couple of weeks. And not just for your GSDR performances. Everyone wants to know: what’s the meaning behind the dresses?

YILING : My whole life, I’ve always wanted to use my voice—as an artist and as a performer—to take a stance and use whatever platform I had to make a difference. And let’s be real—before GSDR, my platform used to be tiny. Like, I was standing on a stage the size of a postage stamp trying to talk to anyone who would listen. I had to be loud, because I was small.

Now, suddenly, the stage is HUGE, and that just means I have to be that much louder to make sure my voice will carry. There isn’t room for subtlety when you’ve got millions of people watching. 

The fact is, while I’m thankful for the opportunities the show has given me, that doesn’t change the fact that JinLinTV is playing a dirty game with their employees and it’s ruining lives. And people need to know.

That’s what the dresses are. The names of the people the JinLinTV has blacklisted, all because they dared to fight for their rights and the rights of others. It’s not right, and I know if I didn’t say something, I would always regret it.

SONGBIRD : What is it you want people who are watching to do?

YILING : The right thing. Stand up for the workers. Don’t let JinLinTV get away with it. Boycott, protest, whatever it takes. Join the fight. And support the people who have lost their livelihoods because of this—there’s a fund, you can donate and provide very real, and very needed to support them.

SONGBIRD : Anything else you want your fans to know?

YILING : I just want to say thank you. I promise I’ll always do my best to do what is right.

You can support the worker’s fund at bit.ly/BlkLstJLTV.

Until next time, my canaries!

~Songbird

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Chapter Text

Episode Summary

These queens have got us seeing green! In a final push to make it to the live finale, the queens leaf it all on the runway. In an homage to Mother Earth, the final five queens must put together three nature-inspired looks for the Green Ball. Who has what it takes to make it to the finale? And which of our queens will fall short?

Episode Recap: We Got the Green

by QIN SU

It’s time for a ball!

With five queens remaining and just one more elimination before the live finale, our queens are pulling out all the stops to show that they have what it takes to make it to the end. 

The judges waste no time. The queens are led to a greenhouse and told to load up their carts with whatever flowers strike their fancy. 

“Don’t be shy!” Baoshan Sanren says. “Think color! Think texture! Think: elegance .”

The queens take the instruction to heart, as they make quick work of grabbing whatever foliage they can get their hands on. Once their carts are full, Lan Qiren let’s them know the challenge. “This week, we will be holding the Green Ball,” Lan Qiren says. “You must show us three looks. The first category is Flower Child ; you will walk the runway in your best 60s fashion, incorporating real flowers into your look. 

“The second category is Get that Green , where your goal is to make a look worthy of the red-carpet.

“The final look is Mother Nature . You must create a haute couture look constructed entirely out of plants.”

“You’ve got your work cut out for you,” Baoshan Sanren says. “Don’t hold back! Now’s the time to impress us.”

With only a week to make three unique runway looks, the queens put their noses to the grindstone to get everything done. The Yiling Patriarch and Minge Gay struggle out of the gate, as Minge Gay’s banana leaves dry out overnight, causing them to crumble. The Yiling Patriarch, meanwhile, comes back on day three to find the flower skirt of their showstopper has dropped all of its petals, leaving only a skeleton of stems behind.  

Hanguang Jun, meanwhile, takes a risk by using only white flowers in all three of her looks. A risk that pays off, as she nabs the top spot and a place in the finale. 

Fangela takes the second spot after presenting three strong looks using an elegant color palette of greens and golds that tied all three looks together. 

In a surprise twist, it’s the Yiling Patriarch who grabs the third spot. Baoshan Sanren applauds her ingenuity and creativity for bringing a meaningful look to the runway, having embraced the misfortune with her petal skirt to turn three looks combining the majesty of nature with the commentary on the need to protect it from destruction. 

This leaves Jiggy Stardust and Minge Gay lip syncing for their spot in the finale to Heads Will Roll by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Jiggy Stardust secures her spot, and it is with heavy hearts that Minge Gay the final four embrace Minge Gay as she sashays away.

Next stop for the Final Four is the Finale! Tune in next Friday, 8 PM for the Reunion Episode before the Live Finale! Only on JinLinTV.

* Gaydar Magazine is owned by Lanling, Inc, parent company of JinLinTV.

––––

“It’s just another show,” Wei Ying chanted to themself under their breath as they stood outside the club, trying to summon the nerve to go in. “You can do this. Get your shit together, Wei Ying.”

It’s not just another show. It is, insofar as it’s another Friday night and another Watch Party. It’s not, in that it’s the final Watch Party. It’s not, in that the Finale is next week.

It’s not, because of who is going to be here tonight. 

They see a silver car pull up, someone tall and dressed in white emerging from the back. Wei Ying makes a dash for the inside, not quite ready to face the music. It’s stupid. They’re going to be working the show together tonight, they can’t avoid them. But they just need a little time. Just another moment to get their act together.

The truth is, Wei Ying doesn’t know what to say to Lan Zhan. Their phone is full of unread text messages, unreturned phone calls. They’d hoped that, by the time they saw Lan Zhan again, they’d have figured out how to face them. But it’s over a month later, the moment has come, and Wei Ying is still as clueless as ever. If anything, the situation is worse for having been ignored for so long.

Wei Ying runs into the single stall bathroom at the back of the club. It’s early enough still that there’s not much of a crowd, so the stall is blessedly free. They take a few minutes, splashing cold water on their face and examining their reflection. A coward looks back at them. 

“I’m a fucking idiot,” Wei Ying whispers to them before dropping their head onto the cold porcelain sink. 

They stay like that for several minutes, until there’s a knock on the door. “One moment,” Wei Ying calls. They wonder if it’s all worth it. If they shouldn’t just make a run for it now and avoid all of this. 

But … no. They think of Kerry. Of Wen Ning, who is cheering for them. Of Wen Qing, who might actually kill them if they start to flake on gigs again. 

No. It’s worth it. After all, how bad can it be? Lan Zhan is a professional. He wouldn’t let personal feelings get in the way of putting on a good performance.

It will be fine.

 

It starts so small, that if Wei Ying wasn’t looking for it, they might not have noticed at all.

Lan Zhan is already in the dressing area—which is to say, an area sectioned off by a curtain strong over PVC pipe structure to the left of the stage. She’s got most of her face on already, because she’s efficient like that, which makes it easier to miss.

Wei Ying wishes they had missed it.

“Hey,” Wei Ying says, stupidly miming a knock on the curtain. “Mind if I come in?”

Lan Zhan looks up, and their gazes lock in the reflection of the mirror. There’s a flicker of movement around her eyes—gone so quickly, that Wei Ying doesn’t have time to decipher what it means. Were it someone else, they might have dismissed it entirely. But this is Lan Zhan, and it makes Wei Ying’s stomach swoop.

Wei Ying shakes themself internally, takes a deep breath and walks towards the vanity. “Gonna be a wild one tonight, I’d better,” they say, just to say something. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan hums. “My brother has warned me what to expect.”

“Oh right,” Wei Ying laughs nervously and takes a seat, opening their makeup case. “I forgot that Zewu Jun went through all of this already. Did she have any survival tips?”

Lan Zhan pauses, considering the question carefully before answering. “He recommended that we use ‘the buddy system’.”

The way she says it, the quotation marks pronounced as careful bookends on “buddy system” startles a laugh out of Wei Ying. A genuine one, this time, which eases a bit of the weight in their chest. “Don’t worry, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying reaches out instinctively and grabs her elbow. “I won’t let anyone separate us.”

Lan Zhan’s eyes widen. Her ears flush. Wei Ying plays back what they just said and snatch their hand back as if from a lit stove. “Anyway,” they say, coughing to break the tension. “I should … get ready.”

Lan Zhan says nothing, but watches Wei Ying for a long moment as they start the frustrating process of blocking out their brows. Maybe they should just shave them. They’ve thought about it a lot. It’s easily the worst part of doing makeup. And what’s stopping them? Vanity? They can draw some back on, it would probably be easier. 

They’re on their second layer of glue when Lan Zhan clears her throat. 

“Wei Ying …”

Wei Ying turns to her, eyebrows carefully motionless to prevent wrinkles as the glue dries. 

“I wanted to say that … I am sorry.”

“Sorry?”

“For the last time we spoke. I overstepped. I believe I offended you.”

“Oh.” The dismissal is right there on their tongue. The urge to tell her it was nothing. That it is forgotten. Not to worry about it. But they stop themself, truly considering the apology and their own complicated knot of feelings in a way that probably isn’t wise right before a show. “I know it was done with good intentions,” Wei Ying says slowly. “But, Lan Zhan … you assumed a lot of things about me without even asking.”

“I know.”

“It sucked. A lot. It sucked a lot.”

“I am sorry.”

Wei Ying sighs, and does dismiss the apology this time with a weak flap of their hand. “It’s not necessary. I mean, apology accepted. I get it. I do. I know what it looked like. But in the future …”

They stop, trailing off into nothing. Lan Zhan leans forward a little, golden eyes intense on Wei Ying’s face, seeking appeasement or guidance or something

“In the future?” Lan Zhan prompts.

“In the future, if — if you’re worried about me,” Wei Ying swallows around the lump in their threat at the presumptuousness of it, “then ask me.”

“Wei Ying.”

Lan Zhan reaches up, tucks a strand of hair behind their ear where it has come loose from the ponytail. Wei Ying stops themself from leaning into the touch through a force of will they didn’t even know they possessed.

“That’s me,” they say, trying to laugh, but it just comes out raspy. 

Lan Zhan’s eyes close for a moment, just longer than a blink, before opening them again. “I am asking,” she says. “Are you in trouble?”

Wei Ying thinks about the dress waiting in the garment bag. They think about JinLinCO and the ruined careers and lives that they’ve left burning in their wake. Wei Ying knows trouble. But good trouble is always worth it.

“Don’t worry,” Wei Ying turns back to the mirror and begins to powder down their brows. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

 

Wei Ying has expected the crowd to be rowdy. It’s the semi-final, so it goes without saying that the tension and stakes are higher than ever. Besides, with them and Hanguang Jun working the gig together, as two of the five remaining queens for the episode, it was guaranteed to get the crowd keyed up.

But as Hanguang Jun is declared the episode winner, and then the Yiling Patriarch is called safe and going through to the finale, the club erupts. It’s louder and worse than Wei Ying had ever imagined. 

Before the episode is even over, as Jiggy Stardust and Minge Gay perform their hearts out through the lip sync, the crowd storms the stage. Drinks are shoved at them, people clamor for photos and autographs, camera flashes burst causing remnants of light to pop in Wei Ying’s vision. 

All of it—the noise, the lights, the crash of bodies—is enough to disorient them, so they find themself alone on the stage as the bouncers rush forward to try to regain control.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying yells into the crowd, looking around desperately.

They see her a moment later. A tall, white beacon slouched against a wall as a crowd presses in around her.

Wei Ying runs for them, shoving their way through the crowd as delicately as possible while still firm enough to get to Lan Zhan. “Sorry, excuse me!” they yell as they try to force the sea of people to part. “I gotta get through! Got to respect the buddy system!”

They make it Lan Zhan, who looks unfocused and fuzzy around the edges as she reaches out a hand to Wei Ying. Wei Ying grabs her wrist, tugging her forward back onto the stage, which the bouncers have cleared again. On the screen behind them, Jiggy Stardust and Minge Gay have completed their lip sync. 

Wei Ying helps Lan Zhan into her seat—her limbs are loose and pliant, and Wei Ying shoves down the alarm at that for now. There’s something they have to do.

The crowd goes silent as Wei Ying walks to the front of the stage and stands in front of the screen, looking down at the crowd. Silently, they remove their black robe—the same robe they’ve worn each Watch Party for weeks, revealing the burned dress beneath. They hold their chin high for the cameras and reach down, dragging one long nail against the skirt of her dress.

It ignites, and this time the fire scrawls across the skirt in a spiraling script, one name after the other:

Kerry Harmon
Nina Bao
Jacklyn Vogels
Hadiza Knutson
Qin Bicao
Filipa Tang
Raheem Ahmed
Catherine Anghelescu

They spun, letting the crowd take it in, letting the cameras catch every name until the glowing stopped, leaving behind only the trail of smoke and the black script nearly lost in the dark. 

Wei Ying lowered their arms and picked a phone camera in the crowd, looking directly into it. “We won’t stand silent,” they say, voice steady and commanding. “And you can’t make us.”

 

They don't stick around to see what happens next. Before the crowd can react or really process, Wei Ying turns, grabs Lan Zhan, and disappears back behind the curtain. It takes a few minutes to gather everything they can—Lan Zhan is no help, as she sits on the floor, leaning against the wall, possibly asleep. A sizzle of anger bursts across Wei Ying's skin as they realize that someone has given her alcohol, no doubt without her realizing. Possibly drugged her. Thankfully, Lan Zhan is tidy and has her supplies already neatly packed away. 

"There's a back entrance," one of the bouncers says, sticking their head through the curtain. "I'll show you the way."

" Thank you ," Wei Ying says as they sling Lan Zhans arm around their neck. "Alright, Hanguang Jun, if you can help me at all, now's the time to do it."

Lan Zhan's eyes blink open, and her mouth says sloppily, "Will always help Wei Ying."

Wei Ying can't help but smile at that. "Alright then, beautiful. Up on three. One—two—three!"

 

Not for the first time, Wei Ying wishes their memory wasn't such garbage. They sit in the back of a car, Lan Zhan drooling on their shoulder, as they try to figure out what to do.

They don't know Lan Zhan's address. Not that they're anywhere near Lan Zhan's home anyway. They also don't know where Lan Zhan is staying. They're pretty sure someone told them—they had asked, anyway, in an effort to not stay at the same hotel. They'd been so adamant about not seeing Lan Zhan for some reason, which currently doesn't make a whole lot of sense as Lan Zhan snores, breath ghosting lightly over Wei Ying's neck. 

The driver looks at the through the rearview mirror and clicks his tongue impatiently. "Where am I taking you?"

Wei Ying nudges Lan Zhan, trying to get her to wake up, but it's no use. They sigh, giving in to whatever it is fate has in store and gives the driver their hotel.

"Looks like this time, I'm taking care of you," Wei Ying says under their breath. 

"Mn," Lan Zhan sighs and burrows deeper into Wei Ying's neck.

 

The good news is that Lan Zhan wakes up by the time they get to the hotel, meaning Wei Ying doesn't have to attempt to carry her up to their room.

The bad news is that an awake Lan Zhan is significantly harder to catch than a sleeping one.

"Lan Zhan, no ," Wei Ying gasps, running to grab her as Lan Zhan makes ducks behind the hotel bar, peeking impishly over the bar top as a bemused bartender looks down at her. 

"You can't be back there. I'm so sorry," the latter part is said to the bartender who only laughs and shrugs.

"I've dealt with worse," he says, joining Wei Ying's effort to shoo Lan Zhan out from behind the bar. "But maybe that's enough for—uh—her? Water? Bedtime?"

"Yes, bottled water, if you can. And trust me, I'm trying," Wei Ying says as Lan Zhan slips out of their hands again, like the world's most elegant eel. 

Wei Ying is pretty sure that Lan Zhan is laughing at them. At least, she seems to be enjoying herself as she dodges out of Wei Ying's reach while always keeping them in their sight. At least she hasn't tried to run off entirely. The purpose doesn't seem to be to shake Wei Ying, so much as it is to play some sort of coquettish game of cat and mouse.

This gives Wei Ying an idea. They slump down into a seat at the bar as the bartender slides a bottle of water toward them, turning their back on Lan Zhan, sighing dramatically. "I can't believe it," they declare loudly, "I've lost my Lan Zhan! I don't know where I've put them! Whatever will I do now?"

In truth, they don't really expect it to work. It takes a lot of faith and desperation to assume that Lan Zhan won't bolt the minute their back is turned. But they've also been chasing her for 20 minutes now, and Wei Ying is tired. Their scalp itches and they can feel the beginnings of a pounding wig headache. So Lan Zhan grabs their wrist a moment later, declaring somberly, in a thick voice that is clearly struggling to tangle itself around her own thoughts,  "I found Wei Ying—won't lose you," Wei Ying almost cries in relief. 

They turn their attention towards settling up with the bartender for the bottle of water, driving him their room number to charge it to. Lan Zhan is distracted for the moment, fiddling with Wei Ying's hands. Wei Ying thinks nothing of it, too busy counting their lucky stars that something has finally worked in their favor. 

That is, until they go to grab the water bottle and realize that their hands are tied together. They raise them to eye level, examining a series of very tight knots that trail from the wrists to Lan Zhan's hands. At the other end of the ribbon, Lan Zhan glows with smug pride at what she's done. "Wei Ying won't be lost," she says, tugging the ribbon far too hard, causing Wei Ying to stumble out of their seat.

"Uh," Wei Ying says eloquently, their brain suddenly filled with static as they look up at Lan Zhan as she stands above them, towering and proud. 

They stay like that for a moment, the connection between Wei Ying's brain and mouth temporarily disabled, until Lan Zhan's eyebrows pinch together in confusion. "I do not know where we are," she admits. 

It's too much. Wei Ying laughs, swaying forward and butting their forehead in Lan Zhan's chest. "I'm going to kill whoever did this to you," they say through the laughter that is turning to tears. "Come on, you beautiful trainwreck. Let's get you back to my room and to bed."

Lan Zhan inhales sharply, then tugs on the ribbon, dragging Wei Ying forward. 

"Thanks!" Wei Ying calls to the bartender quickly before taking several galloping steps to catch up to Lan Zhan and take over in steering them back to their room.

 

Wei Ying wakes the next morning with a crick in their neck, blinking up at an unfamiliar ceiling and wondering how it's possible to feel so shitty without touching a drop of alcohol.

The thought crashes into last night's memories like a freight train. Wei Ying jolts up so quickly that their legs tangle in the thin hotel sheet that wrapped around themself, sending them crashing to the floor.

“Are you hurt?”

Wei Ying scrambles to their feet, wincing more out of embarrassment than anything. 

“No,” they say, kicking the sheet away where it’s ensnared their ankle. “How about you? How are you—” their brain stutters as they look up and see Lan Zhan, sitting up in the bed, white sheets slipping down revealing his bare chest “—feeling?” they finish, a beat too late to be anything but awkward.

Lan Zhan frowns. His eyes are red-rimmed and he definitely is looking a little green around the gills. “Poorly,” he says. “Did you sleep on the couch all night?”

“Ah, yeah,” Wei Ying says, shuffling over to the single-serving coffee machine in the corner to give themself some cover as they wait for the flush in their face to recede, hoping Lan Zhan didn’t notice. “You kinda crashed hard last night. It was easiest, and I didn't mind. It’s probably softer than my bed at home anyway.”

“I am sorry.”

“Aiyah, Lan Zhan, none of that!” Wei Ying says, still not looking at him. “It’s fine! You were not in your right mind last night. Am I right in thinking that probably wasn’t your choice?”

“...Mn.”

Wei Ying does look up at that. Lan Zhan sounds distraught. Hesitant in a way that Wei Ying isn’t used to. It’s Lan Zhan’s turn to avoid their eyes. 

Well, Wei Ying doesn’t want to push. Lan Zhan is probably feeling shitty enough already. 

“Do you want some coffee?” Wei Ying asks as they take the coffeepot to the bathroom to fill it. “Or tea? I think they have tea bags.”

“Tea,” Lan Zhan says promptly. Then, “And … water?”

Wei Ying chuckles sympathetically. “The bottle on the bedside table’s yours. I could only convince you to drink half of it before you passed out.” 

“I am sor—”

“No! None of that, I said! It’s not a big deal. Besides, you took care of me. It was only right that I return the favor, right?”

Lan Zhan doesn’t answer, but opens the water bottle and sips, which Wei Ying takes as assent before ducking into the bathroom and taking several deep breaths as they stare themself down in the mirror. ‘ Stop staring at his chest. He’s vulnerable and you are not going to be a horndog about it.’

They fill the coffee pot, then splash a little cold water on the neck for good measure. 

When they emerge from the bathroom, Lan Zhan has exited the bed and stands in the middle of the room, casting a searching look and wearing only a pair of too-small sweatpants that hide exactly nothing. Wei Ying feels a pull of lust so strong behind their navel that they worry for a moment they might pass out as their blood rushes south. 

“Um,” Wei Ying says. 

Lan Zhan turns to them, his ears going bright red. “I do not know where my clothes are.”

“Ah, they’re over here,” Wei Ying says, setting the coffee pot down and digging through the pile of discarded clothing to pull out Lan Zhan’s white gown. “Sorry about … well, I didn’t think you’d want to sleep in drag. You undressed yourself and everything, though, I just unzipped and made sure you didn’t fall over and brain yourself. Uh. I have a shirt you can borrow, too. It seemed like too much trouble last night, the pants were a whole … thing.”

Wei Ying’s brain unhelpfully flashes back to kneeling at Lan Zhan’s feet, trying to help him step into the pants, tugging them up as Lan Zhan’s eyes blazed down at them. They think there might be steam coming out of their ears. 

“Thank you,” Lan Zhan says, accepting the dress and folding it delicately. “A shirt would be appreciated.”

“Of course!” Wei Ying says. It comes out as a squeak. They clear their throat in a desperate attempt at normalcy as they grab the shirt and toss it to Lan Zhan. 

The tension in the room is suffocating, even after Lan Zhan has pulled the shirt on. Less skin on display certainly helps Wei Ying regain a little control of their thoughts, but their thoughts aren’t particularly helpful either way. 

They sit across from each other in the small living space of the room, Wei Ying twisting the styrofoam coffee cup between their hands. Lan Zhan is silent, looking down at his tea with a small line of strain between his brows. 

After they finish their beverages, Lan Zhan orders a car for himself. “I will return the clothes,” he says. 

“Sure,” Wei Ying says, then follows it up contradictorily with, “don’t worry about it, you can keep them.”

Lan Zhan looks at them, his face blank, but in a complicated way that Wei Ying can’t understand or explain. 

“What am I saying? Why would you want to keep them, they don’t even fit. I just meant, don’t worry about it. They were cheap, I got the leggings and the shirt in a multipack. You can throw them out or—I don’t know—donate them, or something. It’s fine. Don’t worry about—”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan interrupts. Wei Ying’s mouth snaps shut mid sentence. “Did I behave … inappropriately last night?”

He’s not looking at Wei Ying. His gaze is somewhere over Wie Ying’s left shoulder, as though he can’t bring himself to look at them directly. Wei Ying’s stomach does something unpleasant, icy and wretched. 

“No, Lan Zhan. No,” Wei Ying says, tugging down the cuffs of their shirt around their wrists, where they still show red marks from Lan Zhan’s ribbon. “Of course not, Lan Zhan. You would never.”

Lan Zhan’s gaze drops momentarily to meet Wei Ying’s. It strikes Wei Ying that Lan Zhan looks … sad. A moment later, it’s gone—shutters drop behind his eyes, and whatever was there has been locked away behind them. 

A buzzing sound emits from Lan Zhan’s phone, announcing the arrival of his car. 

“You should get going,” Wei Ying says, too bright, too sunny, too brittle.

“...Yes,” Lan Zhan says. “Wei Ying.”

He pauses, teetering on the edge of something. Wei Ying waits, barely breathing, not sure what they’re waiting for, except that it’s important and Lan Zhan is looking at them.

“Good luck in the finale,” he says, turning his face away.

“Oh,” Wei Ying takes a shuddering breath. “Yeah. You too. Not that you need it.”

Lan Zhan’s phone buzzes again, slicing through the tense moment. Wei Ying uses the break to force a smile back into place.

“Well, bye, Lan Zhan!” they say waving vigorously, even though they stand only a couple of feet apart. “See you around!”

And then, Lan Zhan is gone, the door clicking shut behind him. Wei Ying drops their arm then, groaning, throws themself onto the bed.

Stupid. They’re so stupid. 

Memories bombard them, their own foolish heart beating in double time in the chest. 

“Lan Zhan, you’re really drunk, huh?”

“Mn.”

“You probably would tell me anything like this, wouldn’t you? But that’s too mean, right? Taking advantage of poor, inebriated Hanguang Jun.”

“Anything.”

“Really? Okay! Nothing too serious though, I promise. We’ll just be a pair of girls at a sleepover! Okay, I’ll go first. Hm. Oh, I’ve got it! Lan Zhan, what do you think of Sandu Shengshou?”

“Mean. Unkind to Wei Ying.”

“What? Aiyah, Lan Zhan, Jiang Cheng’s not … Well, okay, he kind of is, but he’s not a bad guy! You’re too much, go easy on us mere mortals! What about me then, huh? What does the perfect Hanguang Jun think of the Yiling Patriarch?”

“Mine.”

“Huh? Oh, the ribbon? I know, but in fairness, you’re the one who tied it on me.”

Someday, maybe, Wei Ying will be able to look back on this and laugh. 

Someday. But for today, Wei Ying crawls under the blankets and tries to wish the world away, Lan Zhan’s smell still clinging to the sheets. 

––––

 

Chapter Text

Walking onto the Gusu’s Drag Race set feels like walking into enemy territory. Wei Ying wishes desperately that they could be at least a little drunk for this, just enough to take the edge off. It wouldn’t work though, they know. The set is nothing but edges: knife-sharp stares and implications that poke them from all sides as they sit before a mirror, powdering their face in uncomfortable silence. 

They’re late, of course. Not intentionally—it wasn’t some act of rebellion or protest, as no doubt everyone is thinking. Wei Ying always intended to be here for the filming of the reunion episode. But having the intention to do something, and finding the willpower to drag oneself into a lion’s den while wearing a metaphorical meat dress are two very different things.

Not that Wei Ying has the dress with them. They aren’t stupid , despite all appearances to the contrary. It’s a good thing, too, because no sooner had they walked through the door, than the production manager appeared and demanded they turn over their wardrobe for “mandatory inspection.”

Wei Ying sighs, carefully holding an eyelash in place and willing the glue to dry faster. The other queens are long since ready, already sweating under the camera lights on the other side of the partition wall, just far enough away that Wei Ying can’t make out any of the words. But the vibes are bad—that much they can say for certain.  

“Dress is cleared,” the production manager announces, approaching them as one might walk up on a wild animal: cautiously soothing, a little fearful, with a hint of superiority. “How much longer?”

“Just however long it takes the glue to dry and get dressed,” Wei Ying says, trying hard not to blink.

 

When they walk onto set twenty minutes later, Wei Ying is nearly bowled over by an unpleasant sense of deja vu. 

The werk room has been transformed. Where previously work tables had stood in rows, the back walls lined with displays of wigs and costumes, now there is only empty space. But the wave of anxiety that washes over them doesn’t care for the details. Wei Ying feels a strong urge to run to the back of the room, dig out a sewing machine, and start frantically making a dress. They half expect to see Lan Zhan sitting primly at the vanity, silently painting on her face. Instead, she is standing alone, apart from the rest of the group, obviously not interested in making conversation. It might be Wei Ying’s imagination, but they think that maybe she looks up as they enter the room, something bright and hopeful in her eyes as she spots Wei Ying. 

“Yiling!” Ouyang Zizhen shouts, waving to them enthusiastically and breaking them out of their reverie. 

“Hey, Zizi!” Wei Ying walks over, doing their best to look like a person who has both all of their bones and their wits as they join Zizhen, refusing a proffered drink. “No thanks, trying to cut back a bit. How’re you? I heard you booked a modeling gig?”

“Yeah!” Zizhen flushes, looking embarrassed but pleased. “Nothing big—it’s just a small makeup campaign for an indie brand. But they do good work! Their whole thing is making makeup for people of color. Here, look—”

Zizhen makes to pull out her phone, when somebody behind them clears their throat. Loudly .

Wei Ying turns, and has the unhappy experience of looking directly into Jin Zixun’s sneering face. “Do you need something?” they ask. “A lozenge, perhaps?”

“I’m surprised to see you here,” Jin Zixun says. “Nobody thought you’d show.”

“Is that right,” Wei Ying says, before turning their back on her and gesturing at Ouyan Zizhen’s phone again. “Show me that brand, I’m curious! Maybe I can do a small haul for my channel, I’m always happy to show off indie creators—”

“We all thought you’d at least have enough class not to show up,” Jn Zixun interrupts in a slimy drawl. “But I guess that was our mistake for thinking you’d have class.”

“—maybe I could even do a giveaway,” Wei Ying continues, louder, ignoring her completely. “Do you think they’d be interested, Zizi?”

“Oh, um,” Zizhen’s eyes dart up to Jin Zixun, and then drop back to Wei Ying. “Maybe! I can ask. I bet they’d love to speak with you. They—”

“—Some people really don’t know when they’re not wanted.”

“Excuse me,” Wei Ying turns their head to flash a friendly customer-service smile at Jin Zixun. “Is there something I can do for you?”

At this point, several of the queens who are standing closest have stopped talking and are now looking over at them, not even pretending that they aren’t listening to what’s happening. Nie Huaisang’s fan is at risk of going airborne with the speed at which she’s waving it—perhaps taking Jiang Cheng wig with it. Even Lan Zhan has moved closer, her eyebrows knit in the tiniest of frowns as she watches the scene.

“You can stop pretending like you belong here,” Jin Zixun all but snarls. 

Lan Zhan takes an angry step forward, nudging Wen Yuan’s shoulders and she does so. Wei Ying’s heart kicks up into a panicked speed. They need to bring this to an end now. Whatever is about to happen, they know that they don’t want Lan Zhan involved. Affecting an expression of befuddled innocence, Wei Ying tilts their head, narrowing their eyes slightly, mouth slanted in confusion. “I’m so sorry,” they say after a moment. “Do I know you?”

The effect is immediate and incredibly gratifying, as Jin Zixun takes a step back, mouth dropping open in contemptuous disbelief, before snapping shut again, her face turning red. “You—”

“—Come on, Zizi, let’s go show that to Fangela,” Wei Ying says, looping elbows with a slightly dumbstruck Zizhen. “She’s great at the brand stuff, I bet she’ll have some advice.”

With that, Wei Ying steers them both away from Jin Zixun, as well as away from Lan Zhan. Nie Huaisang’s eyebrows are high over the top of her fan, and even Nie Mingjue watches their approach with a bemused exasperation. That works just fine for Wei Ying, they think as they breathe a sigh of relief. They’re used to exasperation, after all.

 

The pre-show continues for longer than Wei Ying would like. It’s a delicate game of cat and mouse as Wei Ying does their honest best to always appear engaged in conversation, leaving no opening for Lan Zhan to come and talk to them. They’re not entirely sure why they feel so desperate about not speaking with Lan Zhan—is it just embarrassment? They are definitely embarrassed about their behavior the last time they were with Lan Zhan, but Wei Ying’s face is usually thick enough to laugh it off. 

Not so tonight. Not so with Lan Zhan. 

They wish they would get a move on and could just get the filming done. Wei Ying can feel their scalp sweating beneath the bright lights. It’s hot, their feet hurt, and there seems to be no indication that they’ll be starting any time soon. Time and again, they decline the drinks being offered around with increasing insistence. The producer seems determined for everyone to drink, which only solidifies Wei Ying’s decision to spend the evening as a teetotaler. 

“Could they be more obvious that they’re trying to get us drunk?” Wei Ying grumbles to Nie Huaisang after refusing yet another cocktail. 

They’re off to the side of the room, having left Nie Mingjue and Ouyang Zizhen to their own enthusiastic discussion regarding crowd work and the relative merits of performing on stage vs. on the floor. 

“Loose tongues make for better television,” Nie Huaisang says as she takes a sip of what is probably her fourth cocktail. “They’re counting on it.”

“And you’re cool with that?” Wei Ying arches an eyebrow at her drink. 

Nie Huaisang titters a laugh and sips again. “Well, babes, the only ones who need to be worried are the ones with secrets.”

“And you don’t have any of those.”

“Of course not!” Nie Huaisang makes big, hurt eyes at them. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re implying!”

“Right,” Wei Ying says dubiously. 

“Speaking of secrets, though.” Nie Huaisang leans forward, and Wei Ying mirrors the motion reflexively, bringing their heads together. “Do you want to see something interesting ?”

“Why do I feel like you’d show me even if I said I knew?” Wei Ying whispers back.

“Because beneath that thembo persona, you’re actually pretty smart. About some things, at least.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome. See our grumpy Little Mistress and Jingyi over there? No, don’t look .” Nie Husisang opens her fan, blocking Wei Ying’s view and simultaneously swatting them on the head. “Oh my god, do you have no sense of subtlety?”

“How am I supposed to see them if I don’t look?” Wei Ying retorts, rubbing at the spot where the fan struck them.

Nie Huaisang rolls her eyes, as though Wei Ying is being intentionally dense. “Some people are just not built for espionage. Look now, but do it sneakily .”

Cautiously, Wei Ying peeks over the top of the fan. Sure enough, Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi are standing together, Wen Yuan with them. Wen Yuan and Lan Jingyi are talking happily about something as Jin Ling stands to the side with a sour frown.

“Okay?” Wei Ying says, ducking back below the fan. “What am I looking at?”

Nie Huaisang waggles her eyebrows at them with a sly grin. “A little birdy told me that the Little Mistress and Miss Jingyi have been getting friendly .”

“What? Really?” Wei Ying moves to look back over the top of the fan, but Nie Huaisang grabs and pinches their arm. 

“Yes, really. And as such, I would like to collect on our bet.”

“Our bet–? Oh! Huaisang, you can’t be serious.”

“I never joke about gambling, A-Ying. You know that.”

Nie Huaisang snapped her fan closed, leaning back with a smug expression. 

“Do you have proof?” Wei Ying asks, still furtively trying to crane their neck to get a look at the couple in question. “Or am I just supposed to take you at your word? Because—and I say this with love—your word isn’t exactly…you know.”

“Are you implying that I would lie for profit ?” Nie Huaisang pouts at them, eyes wide and wounded. “And I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends, which is why I know that yes, absolutely, you would.”

Nie Huaisang clicks her tongue with a disappointed sigh. “I don’t lie, babes. I embellish. Maybe I obfuscate . They’re different skill sets.”

“Well in that case, can you prove that you’re not obfuscating the truth here?”

“So little faith,” Nie Huaisang grumbles as she pulls them into a corner and, without a quick look around, pulls a phone out of her bust. “Let nobody say that Fangela doesn’t come with the receipts.”

“How did you get that in here?” Wei Ying asks as they take the phone from Nie Huaisang, careful to angle themself so that it remains hidden as she begins to swipe through the camera roll. “Shit,” they say, goggling at a photo that is clearly taken on-set and shows Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling getting handsy in the wardrobe area of the werk room. “Did you have this the whole time? How?”

“Of course,” Nie Huaisang says dismissively, snatching the phone back from Wei Ying and dropping it back into her dress. “What kind of luddite do you take me for?”

“But phones aren’t allowed,” Wei Ying whispers, more than a little impressed. “If you’d gotten caught—”

Nie Huaisang quirks an unimpressed eyebrow at them, a condescending smirk in the corner of her mouth. “Oh babes,” she says, shaking her head. “What on earth makes you think I would get caught?”

Wei Ying has no answer to that, so says nothing. One of these days, they’ll really have to stop underestimating Nie Huaisang. 

“Anyway,” she says, looping her arm through Wei Ying’s and walking them slowly back toward the larger group. “I was thinking, you should get me in contact with Mo Xuanyu. I need to talk to them.”

“What? Aren’t you two friends?”

“Ah, well,” Nie Huaisang huffs a little. “We had a tiny little falling out. They haven’t been talking to me.”

She’s talking around something. Wei Ying almost asks what the ‘falling out’ was about, but then decides it’s not worth it. If Nie Huaisang doesn’t want to tell them, then they’re not going to know. If they ask questions, they’ll probably just end up knowing even less than they do now. 

“How am I supposed to help?” Wei Ying asks instead.

“They’re your biggest fan,” Nie Huaisang states matter-of-factly. “And I know that dress you’ve been wearing is their work. You’re smart. Sometimes. I’m sure you can think of something.”

With that, she drops Wei Ying’s arm, plants a showy kiss in the air next to their cheek, as she skips away back to Nie Mingjue. 

Wei Ying watches her, bemused, before turning to the slightly startled group of juniors she’s dropped them in. “Hey kids,” Wei Ying says. “Sorry to interrupt, but—”

“Fangela,” Wen Yuan supplies helpfully. “We don’t mind. It’s always good to see you!”

“Speak for yourself—oof!” Jin Ling grunts as Lan Jingyi elbows her sharply in the side. 

Now that Wei Ying has been presented with photographic evidence, they consider that maybe they really are an idiot for not having seen it earlier. They chat happily with the group of youngsters as they wait for the production crew to determine they’re sufficiently socially lubricated to proceed with filming. Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling toss barbs between them, but now Wei Ying sees the way they lean together, the way their hands brush and their eyes heat as the insults build.

They lock eyes with Wen Yuan for a moment, then quickly look away, at risk of bursting into laughter. 

Wei Ying is so distracted with trying to stop themself from laughing, that they don’t notice somebody approaching them from behind. It isn’t until Lan Jingyi’s face lights up at something over their shoulder, Jin Ling blanching a little, that Wei Ying realizes. There’s only one person who would get that reaction from the two baby queens. 

Taking just a fraction of a second to feel sorry for themself, Wei Ying thickens their face and spins, a smile plastered in place. 

“Hanguang Jun!” they say, too loudly and too confidently, as though they are a prey animal trying to trick a predator into thinking they’re too dangerous to bother with. 

It doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t. Lan Zhan is not one to be so easily ruffled. “Wei Ying,” she says in that rich voice of hers that makes Wei Ying’s toes curl in their boots. “I would like to speak with you.”

“Ah, I’m a little busy here—” they start looking back over their shoulder just in time to see Wen Yuan dragging Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi away, hand clamped over Lan Jingyi’s mouth, no doubt smearing her lipstick. Jin Ling is looking at that hand with interest as she follows them willingly. 

Wei Ying wonders if Nie Huaisang has maybe miscalculated slightly in her mapping of the drag race romances. Although that’s not important right now. What is important is how Wen Yuan shrugs in a take-your-medicine kind of way at Wei Ying’s silently mouthed, ‘ et tu, A-Yuan?’

“I guess I’m not busy after all,” Wei Ying says in resignation. “What is it, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Zhan pauses for a beat too long, as though struggling with the words now that she actually has Wei Ying in front of her. Wei Ying for their part is screaming inside, words crashing together and breaking apart before they can reach their mouth. It’s for the best, because none of it would be helpful. All of the words are too embarrassing. Too vulnerable. Too dangerous. Wei Ying is a disaster in the midst of a scheme that will burn their career to the ground. It’s a blaze big enough to consume anyone too close to it, and Wei Ying can’t let that happen. 

“Are you well?”

Lan Zhan looks at them, and it’s a look filled with so much earnest concern that Wei Ying feels bowled over by it. Their mouth drops open before they slam it shut again, shaking their head. 

“Great. Stupendous. Never been better.” It comes out too short, too sharp. Lan Zhan’s cheek twitches a little, almost a wince. 

Another pause. Another tense silence strung out between them like a taut string. Wei Ying sees a crew member handing a fresh drink over to Xue Yang, who is well on their way to shit-faced at this point. They don’t like Xue Yang very much, but  they seem to be having a good time. No awkward conversations with well-meaning beauty queens over there. Wei Ying wonders if maybe they should join them. 

“I saw the Watch Party. I saw the dress.”

It’s the same careful tone—the same stilted mix of earnestness and caution. Wei Ying’s stomach turns over. They want to take the words in their hands and smash them to the floor where they can’t hurt anyone.

“You and everyone else,” they say, their thoughts scrambled as they try to find a way out of the conversation. 

“Mn.” Lan Zhan is looking at them. It makes Wei Ying squirm. “It is dangerous, what you’re doing,” she says at last. “The finale—”

“It is,” Wei Ying interrupts to agree. “It’s stupid and it’s dangerous and it’s also—” they swallow hard, not letting themself say the last part. That it’s important . That it’s right. “I don’t give a shit about the finale,” they say instead, broken and angry.

“Wei Ying .” Lan Zhan looks broken open too. But she doesn’t look angry. She looks fragile. “Come to Gusu with me.”

Wei Ying freezes, not sure if they heard her correctly. “Go to Gusu with you?”

“Yes,” Lan Zhan makes as though to grab their hands, but stops just short. “If you come, then I can—”

“No,” Wei Ying says quickly, taking a step back. “No, Lan Zhan. No! Do you think I’ll stop just because I’m in Gusu? I’m not going to stop. All that’ll happen is that I’ll be close enough that the mud will hit you too.”

Lan Zhan. Perfect Lan Zhan. The crown jewel of the drag community. The picture perfect queen. Tarred by Wei Ying’s filthy brush. Wei Ying’s mouth fills with a bitter taste as they look at the desperation in Lan Zhan’s face. 

“Wei Ying, no —”

“What are you two yelling about?” 

Wei Ying flares up at once, too hot already for yet another conflict, too vulnerable to do anything but lash out yet again. “Seriously, Zixun, who the fuck is talking to you?”

“So you do know my name.” Jin Zixun tilts her chin up at them with a venomous smile. 

“Everyone here knows your name because you never fucking stopping saying it.” Someone grabs Wei Ying’s arm as they take a step toward Jin Zixun. 

“I can’t help it if people talk about me,” Jin Zixun retorts, missing the point entirely. She looks at Lan Zhan now, rolling her eyes as she nods towards Wei Ying. “People like him are always like that,” she says with the air of adults talking over the head of a child. “It’s all of the—you know—” she lifts her eyebrows suggestively.

Lan Zhan stiffens, almost imperceptibly; she pulls her shoulders back, lifting her head, looking down her perfect nose from her full height at the stop of Jin Zixun’s ratty wig. 

“I don’t know.”

Jin Zixun rolls her eyes. “Come on, you do. People like him—”

“People like me? What is that supposed to mean?” The grip on Wei Ying’s arm tightens and pulls them back slightly. They shoot a glare over their shoulder, but Jiang Cheng just glares back, just clenched tight. 

“You know what you are,” Jin Zixun says, then laughs meanly. “Or maybe you don’t. That’s the whole problem here, isn’t it?”

You watch your mouth ,” Jiang Cheng growls at them over Wei Ying’s shoulder, not letting up her grip one bit. 

Jin Zixun isn’t going to be stopped, though. Smelling blood in the air, she bares her teeth and bites down. “The shit you do isn’t even drag,” she says. “You’re a cheater and a loser. You’re so stuffed full of hormones—”

Quicker than anyone can react, a black blur launches at Jinny Xun’s with a loud crack . Jiang Cheng drops Wei Ying’s arm in surprise, but Wei Ying doesn’t move. They stand watching as Xue Yang sits on top of Jinny Xun, pinning her to the ground. A red mark is blooming on Jinny Xun’s cheekbone already where Xue Yang struck her. 

“Xue Yang, stop !” Crew members rush forward to pull them off of Jinny Xun, who lays sprawled across the floor with a thunderstruck expression. Wei Ying could laugh, except that they’re too shocked to react. 

A pair of crew members heave Xue Yang off of Jinny Xun, lifting them into the air as they kick between them. Xue Yang laughs, loud and unhinged. “See you later, losers!” they laugh  as they’re dragged off of set. “And watch your back, Jinny!”

The room is stunned and silent as the door swings shut behind them. Jinny Xun whimpers, clutching at her bruised face. 

“Peony, come on,” Jiang Cheng says, breaking the silence as she steps forward and takes Peony by the shoulder to lead her away.

She’s trembling, Wei Ying notices as Jiang Cheng grabs a drink and presses it into her hands. Jinny Xun watches them leave, but says nothing, jaw tight and angry as she accepts a bag of ice to hold to her cheek. 

“Alright everyone,” the production manager calls, belatedly bringing them room to order. “Take ten. Do whatever last minute touch-ups you need, and we’ll get started.”

Aired Footage

Baoshan Sanren and Lan Qiren sit side by side, facing the queens who sit in two rows of chairs—one in the front row conspicuously empty. 

The queens are smiling, for the most part, but the smiles are strained. As though they are waiting their turn in the world’s most cheerful queue for the firing squad.

“The Yiling Patriarch,” Baoshan Sanren says. “First of all, welcome back.”

Yiling Patriarch smiles wider, chuckling as she nods her head in acknowledgment. “Sure. Great to be back.”

It comes out sardonic, the words heaped with ill-meaning. Baoshan Sanren’s mouth twists into a knowing smirk. “You’ve been full of surprises all season,” she says conspiratorially. “I daresay you’ve been one of the most surprising queens Gusu’s Drag Race has ever seen.”

“I don’t know about that,” Yiling Patriarch demurs. “But I do like to keep people on their toes.”

“And that you have. Tell us, Yiling Patriarch. Should we expect more big surprises from you during the finale?”

“Baoshan Sanren, a lady never tells,” Yiling smiles, showing all her teeth. “But I’m a queen who always has something up her sleeve.”

––––

“The results are in, and queens …” Baoshan Sanren chuckles, looking down at the card in her hands and shaking her head, “it was a landslide victory.

“The winner of Miss Congeniality season 5 is …”

The camera cuts from queen to queen, zooming in on their carefully neutral expressions as the music sustains a long note for dramatic effect. 

“...Yuanna Wen!”

Chapter Text

Episode Summary

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The Final Four queens will compete in the final lip syncs of the season to see who will win the $100,000 cash prize, and the title of Gusu’s Next Drag Superstar!

“Wei Ying, you made it!” Nie Huaisang runs at them, flinging her arms around Wei Ying’s neck, her mouth close to Wei Ying’s ear. “Hide the dress,” she hisses urgently, low enough to not be overheard. “Don’t let Jiggy see it.”

She unwinds herself from Wei Ying’s neck, flicking her fan open significantly as she raises her eyebrows over the top. 

Wei Ying takes a moment to absorb Nie Huaisang’s abrupt warning, then gives a nod.

It’s going to be that kind of day.

No part of Wei Ying is particularly surprised, but the steel of their spine carries the weight of a weary heart as they heft their costumes over the shoulder, dragging their rolling luggage behind them. 

“Nowhere else I’d want to be!” they say happily, doing their best to look the right amount of nervous. 

There had already been a line queued up outside by the time they arrived at the theater, though no one was inside yet. The stomach flopped over in their abdomen as they imagined the packed house they’d be performing for later. 

There’d been a tech rehearsal the night before, naturally, each queen having been given their own hour to walk through the program for the evening, figure out their marks, and give a general rundown of their intended performances so the lights and camera operators could be prepared. It was a barebones kind of rehearsal, but enough to kick up a tornado of butterflies that had kept Wei Ying from sleeping. The theater was huge. Logically, they knew they’d been performing for millions of viewers every week of drag race, but that audience wasn’t right in front of you and able to boo you to your face. 

The theater seats nearly 2,000 people, and is expected to be packed wall-to-wall. Wei Ying found themself wishing a little wistfully as they stared out over the massive hall that they’d done a little more to ingratiate themselves to the fans. Except they knew that, truly, that wouldn’t take any of it back.

“Yiling, you’re due for your costume check,” a woman with a clipboard and a headset walks up to them, frowning down at her watch. “Overdue, actually. Come on, let’s get you cleared.”

Wei Ying waves a hasty goodbye to Fangela as they follow the women to a dressing room, stomach dropping. “I was cleared yesterday.”

“Need to make sure you didn’t swap them,” the woman says, a bit too loudly just before she closes the door behind them. “Let’s see it.”

With a shaky breath, Wei Ying walks over to the dress rack in the corner, hanging the gowns and unzipping them from the garment bags. Mo Xuanyu has assured them that the dress would hold up to any inspection, but they can’t help but feel anxious as the woman pours pores over it, running her hands down the seams. 

After a few minutes, though, she stands up straight again and gives them a relieved smile. “It’s clear,” she says. “They’ll have someone by to check it officially, but it’ll pass. You’re in the clear.”

“What?” Wei Ying frowns at her in confusion. “Did you just check it? Officially? Why does someone else need to?”

“Oh, no no,” the woman shakes her head, smiling conspiratorially. “If anyone asks, I was never here. But trust me, you don’t have anything to worry about. The dress looks great. You’ll knock’em dead.”

“I—but—thank you?” 

“No, thank you.” She reaches out and grasps their hand, squeezing it firmly. “For all your help.”

With that, she drops their hand and hurries toward the door. 

“Wait!” Wei Ying says, darting forward to stop her. “Are you … who are you?”

“Just another Jin employee who’s sick of it.” She laughs bitterly. “But you’re trustworthy, aren’t you? Sisi. My name’s Sisi.”

“Well, thank you, Sisi. But is this okay? Will you be okay?”

“Don’t worry about me,” Sisi says, opening the door and stepping into the hall. “I’m a tough cookie. I’ve survived worse than anything JinLinTV can do to me.”

They stand on stage, the final four queens arranged in a row, waiting as Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren make their grand entrance, walking the runway into glittering, curve-hugging gowns as the strut and twirl before they walk back, hitting their marks in the center of the stage.

The concert hall is a wall of noise, the audience screaming appreciation and excitement. They shake signs over their heads, declaring love for Hanguang Jun, for Fangela, for Jiggy, and more than what seems like a fair share for the Yiling Patriarch. 

Wei Ying is not going to vomit, because Wei Ying refuses to vomit on live television. They keep their stomach clamped down until a commercial break, like a professional , thank you very much.

“The rules are simple,” Lan Qiren declares, facing the audience. “There will be three lip syncs tonight. Our first queen will spin the wheel to be randomly matched with her lip sync rival. The winners of the first two lip syncs will face off against each other in a final lip sync for the crown.”

The crowd begins to roar again. They let them go on for a bit, before Baoshan Sanren lifts her hands. “Let’s begin, then. Fangela, Lan Qiren and I played a daring game of rock-paper-scissors, and you are the lucky winner to spin the wheel. Are you ready?”

“Ready,” Nie Huaisang says, taking a step forward and giving the wheel a spin.

Wei Ying watches, the room nearly silent as the wheel turns and turns. Their eyes follow it, heart in their throat, and they’re starting to feel dizzy by the time it finally comes to a stop.

“Fangela, Hanguang Jun,” Baoshan Sanren says. “You will be the first pair to lip sync for your lives. Are you ready?”

Lan Zhan nods stiffly, face determined and stony. 

“I don’t know!” Nie Huaisang cries, to the crowd’s delight. 

“Unfortunately, it was more of a rhetorical question,” Baoshan Sanren smirks at her. 

“Queens, take your positions.”

Lan Qiren takes another strutting walk down the runway, arm-in-arm with Baoshan Sanren this time. They take their seats at the end, facing the stage, backs to the crowd. 

Wei Ying and Jiggy Stardust hurry offstage, but don’t get far, staying to watch from the wings as Nie Huaisang and Lan Zhan take their places.

The lights on the stage go down. The house is dark, save for the single spotlight illuminating the judges.

“Two queens stand before me,” Lan Qiren says dramatically, “This is your last chance to impress us, and continue on to the final lip sync for the crown.”

The spotlight goes out. The concert hall is silent as the lights turn up slowly on the stage. The sound of a clock ticking crescendos, joined by a woman’s voice. The music begins.

Looking back, Wei Ying couldn’t even tell you what Nie Huaisang was wearing. As soon as the music started, everything fell away except for Lan Zhan. The way the pale blue bell sleeves of her dress spun around her like water. The way she transformed the music into dance, flowing between styles seamlessly—contemporary to hiphop to ballroom to lyrical. 

Then, the music builds, climbing to something bigger, louder, until the key changes, shifting into a bold climax. Lan Zhan spins, and the flowing skirt goes flying, revealing beneath a classical tutu and the full length of her legs as she rises dramatically on point and continues to spin, spotting her head on the audience, twirling again and again and again until the song comes to its end.

The lights go up, and the concert hall explodes in applause.

“Fangela. Hanguang Jun,” Lan Qiren says, taking several tries to be heard over the crowd until they quiet down enough that he can continue. “That was a striking performance. Thank you.”

“You’ve both shown us that you are amazing queens, and we are so proud to have had you on the show,” Baoshan Sanren says. “Unfortunately, only one queen can move on to the final lip sync.” 

A long pause. Too long. Nie Huaisang reaches out, taking Lan Zhan’s hand in hers. It’s a testament to the stress of the moment that Lan Zhan let’s her. 

“Hanguang Jun,” Lan Qiren says at last. “Shantay, you stay.”

Wei Ying doesn’t hear the rest over the sound of their own cheering. Whatever this is, whatever is about to happen, whatever the finale actually means, this moment, as Lan Zhan turns to where Wei Ying is screaming her name through tears and smiles, is the best moment Wei Ying can imagine. 

“And—cut to commercial!”

Chaos takes over, the panic of a live show shattering the moment. A crew member runs over to Wei Ying, giving them a handheld mirror and a giant powderpuff. “Fix your makeup!” they say mid-stride. 

Wei Ying looks at their face, and realizes that they’re going to need a lot more than a powderpuff to fix the mess they’ve made of themself. 

“How much time?” they ask, grabbing the elbow of a shouting stagehand. 

They look at their watch, ticking down the seconds until they’re live again. 

“Four minutes!”

“Got it!” Wei Ying says, then takes off running for the dressing room, determined to at least clean up the worst of the mess.

The room is empty. Wei Ying grabs the concealer and eyeliner and gets to work cleaning up their face at warp speed. 

“Come on, Wei Ying. You might be a clown, but at least don’t be a sad clown,” they say to their reflection at the scramble to conceal the black tear streaks in their makeup. 

They jump a little as the door to the room opens. Lan Zhan is standing in the doorway, a blazing aura about them. 

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying spins toward them, their heart beating a frantic rhythm in their chest. “You were wonderful! Congratulations!”

“I am not here to distract you,” Lan Zhan says. “Continue.”

“Ah, right!” Wei Ying laughs, and turns back to the mirror. “You were so good. You’re going to win this whole thing, you know that, right? You’re amazing, no one can take you down. Who would even try? Honestly, Lan Zhan, no one else should’ve even bothered, you’ve had this since day one.”

“You are talented as well.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere, but no. You’re the one, Lan Zhan. You’re going to win the crown.”

“The crown is not everything,” Lan Zhan says, still standing sentinel by the door. “Some things are more important than winning.”

Wei Ying freezes, the words trickling like cold water down their spine. They lock eyes with Lan Zhan in the mirror, and what they see looking back at them is defiant and proud. 

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says, their voice nearly swallowed up by the space between them. “What have you done?”

“I do not want to live with regrets,” Lan Zhan says.

It punches the breath out of Wei Ying. Lan Zhan means it. She’s done something—something drastic and dangerous. Something that could ruin her career. And she doesn’t intend to regret it.

She won’t.

“Me neither,” Wei Ying says, standing suddenly and taking several long strides toward the door, standing nearly chest to chest with Lan Zhan now. “I’ll see you in the final lip sync, Lan Zhan.”

“Good.”

On the other side of the door, Wei Ying can hear them calling places. Quickly, before they can talk themself out of it, Wei Ying leans in, lips nearly touching Lan Zhan’s ear. “Surprise me,” they say, before flinging the door open and running back to stage.

Wei Ying needs to focus.

Their vision is swimming, the crowd and stage and judges swaying like trees in the wind as they stand rooted in place.

They have to get through this round. What if it’s hopeless already, though? Wei Ying has caused trouble for the network. The decision could already be made. The smart move would be to do it now, when they are guaranteed to have the stage. They shouldn’t wait. They should risk it.

Except, they want to risk it. They feel like they need to. Lan Zhan is counting on them to make it through. 

Wei Ying needs to get there together. They don’t know why it feels so important. But Lan Zhan wants them in the finale. She’s expecting them there, and Wei Ying doesn’t want to let her down. 

“Remember,” Lan Qiren says. Wei Ying blinks rapidly, trying to clear their vision and make sense of what’s happening around them. “We will choose the queen whose performance is best and who is the most worthy. Nothing you’ve done up until now, on or off the stage, matters except this lip sync performance.”

Lan Qiren carefully looks between both of them as he says it, his chin titled high, a stubborn edge to it. Beside him Baoshan Sanren is smiling, her eyes glinting with mischief. Wei Ying realizes, then, that maybe this whole thing is bigger than they thought. 

They draw themself up taller, taking a breath deep into their belly. The world steadies itself around them as the lights on the stage go black.

“Two queens stand before us,” Baoshan Sanren says. “This is your last chance to impress us and prove that you have what it takes to fight for the crown. The time has come,” she pauses as the lights sweep dramatically over the room. “For you to lip sync for your life.”

Wei Ying stands in a spotlight. They are glittering, the red gown trailing to the ground in a puddle of rhinestones. 

The violins begin, fast and angry, building into the music. Wei Ying extends their arms high overhead and behind them expands a pair of fiery crimson and gold wings. They are a phoenix. They are rising from the dead, from the ashes. The song pounds through their veins, the music propelling them forward faster and faster towards the finish.

The performance is a blur.

The lights blind them as they dance to the dark sea of the crowd. Before they know it, the song winds down, the final acappella notes ringing out into nothing but the sound of their own breathing loud in their head. They’re panting, on their knees, the crown of their head bent toward the ground as their clasped hands extend toward the ceiling over their chest.

A moment later, the sound returns. Wei Ying collapses, bringing their hands to their face as they try to get their breathing back under control. Their head is pounding with their cheering roar of the crowd, and Wei Ying hopes it was enough.

“Ladies,” Lan Qiren says. That’s Wei Ying’s cue to get up, but their heart is beating so fast they’re not sure if their legs will hold them. They turn onto their hands, clambering ungainly to their feet, trying not to look like they’re about to faint as their knees tremble. “We have made our decision.”

A long pause follows. Long enough that the crowd begins to get restless, shouting names at the stage. Wei Ying can’t hear whose name they’re saying, though. They’re  too focused on Lan Qiren, who is looking between them, giving nothing away.

“The queen going on to the final lip sync performance is …” Another pause. The crowd’s shouting gets louder and louder until Baoshan Sanren nudges Lan Qiren impatiently, earning a laugh. 

“The Yiling Patriarch. Shantay, you stay.”

The room explodes into sound, cheers and boos and pandemonium and Wei Ying hears none of it as they sink to their knees on the stage, too dumbstruck to remember anything—their mark, their cue, all of it flies out their head as the meaning of it sinks in.

They’re going to get their chance.

They’re going to the final lip sync.

They’re going to dance with Hanguang Jun. 

Going into the final lip sync feels entirely different. This time, as Wei Ying powders their face, they don’t feel nervous. They don’t feel the fear or the pressure or any of the terrible things that have pressed down on them for weeks. 

Instead, Wei Ying looks at Hanguang Jun who has swapped her tutu for a floaty chiffon skirt that flutters delicately around her knees, and Wei Ying feels nothing but excitement.

“Marks!” someone shouts, shoving Wei Ying towards the stage. “Knock’em dead, girls!”

Wei Ying laughs, too full of delight to hold it back. They walk out to their mark, looking across the stage at Lan Zhan, who looks back at them, the smallest smirk twitching at the corner of her mouth. 

“We love you!” someone in the crowd yells, voice carrying over the rest. 

“Which one?” Wei Ying yells back, unable to resist. 

“Team Wangxian!” someone else screams.

A chant starts through the crowd. Wei Ying feels themself turning red as “Wangxian!” echoes through the fall. They look helplessly over at Lan Zhan, who probably looks unflustered as ever to the crowd, but Wei Ying sees her pink ears beneath the stage lights and their heart soars.

With everything that had happened up until now, they never could have imagined this. Standing on the stage at the finale feeling lighter than air and ready to bottle the moment to have forever.

“Hanguang Jun, Yiling Patriarch!” Baoshan Sanren shouts over the chanting, which hasn’t stopped. “Prepare yourselves. It’s finally time to lip sync for the crown!”

The next moment, the synth begins, joined by the keyboard as the opening of Holding Out for a Hero begins to pump through the concert hall. 

Wei Ying looks over at Lan Zhan at the exact same moment that Lan Zhan turns towards them. She is radiant in the stage lights—otherworldly and beautiful, as though she’s made of diamond, or ice. Wei Ying doesn’t hesitate.They run across the stage and take a flying leap.

Lan Zhan catches them, as though she’d been expecting it. She grabs them by the hips as Wei Ying’s legs circle around her waist, a clash of fire and ice. Wei Ying’s wings brush the ground as their back arches, supported only by Lan Zhan’s hands as she dips them towards the stage floor in a sweeping arc. 

Wei Ying lets their hands come to the floor, unwrapping their legs from Lan Zhan and transitioning from the hands back to their feet in a fluid walkover. Lan Zhan spins around them, raised all the way onto her toes as her skirt spins around her like a white cloud. 

They dance together, moving in and out of each other’s orbit like spinning tops, drawn back together again and again. 

“Are you ready?” Lan Zhan whispers into Wei Ying’s ear as she spins into their arms.

“Always,” Wei Ying says.

Lan Zhan leans back, taking Wei Ying’s chin in her hand as she bends down and kisses them. It’s brief, just a pressing together of their closed lips, and still Wei Ying is on fire. 

Lan Zhan releases them, her eyes soft and burning, and turns, using her momentum to push Wei Ying towards the front of the stage. Wei Ying looks out over the crowd, arms held out at her sides, and drags her nails down her bodice, flames erupting behind them. 

The music stops. The lights go up and Wei Ying hears it. Chanting again, but different this time. They look into the crowd and see them, signs aloft as they storm the stage, Kerry at the front. Not just from the audience. Crew members and queens walk onto stage from the wings. They stand behind Wei Ying, whose dress burns away to nothing, releasing a wide swath of thin black fabric. Across it, in large white letters, it reads “Community over Crowns”. Dozens of names adorn the bodice and skirt in glittering red.

“You’re so dramatic.”

Jiang Cheng is sneering at them, but her eyes are damp as she tugs them into a hug. 

“What’re you—”

“You thought we’d let you do this alone?” she says, punching them in the shoulder. “Of course not, idiot.”

Wei Ying’s throat is too tight to say anything, so they do the only thing they can do. They take a step back, and give the stage away to the protestors. 

They’ll cut the feed soon, Wei Ying knows. Maybe they’ve cut it already. Everyone on the stage will face some kind of repercussion—there’s no avoiding it, but they also know that it is worth it. Some of it will have gotten out there. Millions of people are watching, and they will have seen. It can’t be swept under the rug now. Not anymore.

JinLinTV under investigation following allegations of worker abuse

Qin Su | November 2nd, 10:45 AM

Following the Gusu’s Drag Race season finale this past Friday, the Attorney General has announced that the Workplace Rights Bureau has launched an official investigation into allegations of worker abuse at JinLinTV.

During the live episode of the show, a group of current and former JinLinTV employees and talent took to the stage, interrupting the finale. Says Kerry Harmon, who was arrested on the scene and later released pending a trial date, “It was the only way we could get people to pay attention. JinLinCO had been burying the story again and again. But they can’t bury it when it’s live television. Not when the crew members are the ones controlling the broadcast.”

The protest has made national headlines, and has gained the attention of Congress. “Companies like JinLinCO have been getting away with abuse for too long,” says Congresswoman  Lauren Greenblatt. “It’s time we introduce legislation to protect workers, and bring these corporations down a peg.”

JinLinCO CEO Jin Guangshan has denied the accusations, and company representative Jin Guangyao made a statement on the corporation’s behalf that they would be cooperating fully with investigators. “We are confident that they will find that we have nothing to hide,” says Jin Guangyao. 

The Underground will continue to report as the story develops. 

Chapter Text

What does the Future Hold?

With the finale wrapped on season 5 of Gusu’s Drag Race and the recent announcement that Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren are leaving the show for good, this Songbird that it would be a good time to take a look at where our season 5 queens are now and have a little chat about the future.

XXY

Xue Yang has taken their brief run on drag race and used it to launch a new career on the silverscreen in the alternative horror film scene as a new type of Scream Queen—specifically, the one who does the killing. After striking gold with their film Yi City, an instant cult classic starring drag race staples Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen, as well as teen superstar A-Qing, XXY has continued to produce hit after hit, becoming a household name in horror. 

Peony Gold

Peony Gold has taken a step back from the spotlight of performance and, instead, has started to work behind the scenes as a stylist to the stars. Bequeathing the title of Mother of Jins to Jiggy Stardust, Peony Gold started Gold Star Gowns back in December, and has already dressed big name celebs for the red carpet, including Jiang Yanli at the Golden Globes. She continues to demonstrate a level of taste for fashion that sets her apart, and we’re sure to expect big things from Peony Gold.

Jinny Xun

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the cast of Gusu’s Drag Race season 5. In a season wrought with scandal, none has come out worse for the wear than Jinny Xun. Following the season 5 finale, it was revealed the Jinny Xun had been involved in several attempts at sabotaging her fellow queens, ranging from petty (stealing pages from scripts) to sketchy (swapping one queen’s melatonin with caffeine pills) to downright criminal (damaging set equipment during the wire-work episode). 

As a result, the queen is now being investigated and faces possible criminal charges, and hasn’t been seen in public since the finale aired.

Zizi Green

One of the younger queens, Zizi Green has taken her act to cyberspace, where she has a new web series reacting to gay media alongside weekly guest stars. In addition to her internet stardom, she also recently signed as the new face for Darling Dare cosmetics. This young queen is well on her way to building her empire.

Sue Me

Sue Me made a name for herself on the show as the queen with a chip on her shoulder. The chip is sure to go, as she was recently hired as the host of YouTube talk show Reel Gossip only to be fired after only two episodes. Rumor has it, she butted heads with the crew and her co-host, D-List starlet Wang Lingjiao, ultimately resulting in her getting booted from the show.

Last we heard, Sue Me had started up her own channel and was working on her own show, Gossip Reel. No word yet on whether Sue Me has been sued for that one. 

The Little Mistress

We love to see a baby queen succeed! The Little Mistress has been a breakout star since season 5 aired, immediately becoming a fan favorite, as much for her bark as for her fashion. Alongside Miss Jingyi and Yuanna Wen, the Little Mistress is performing across the country in a touring show, while also launching her own line of shoes, Fairy — catering to queens of all types and sizes, ranging from size 4 to 22. 

Miss Jingyi

The second member of our Junior Trio out there touring the country and making a name for herself, Miss Jingyi has embraced her comedic chops and started a podcast where she interviews lesser-known queens in every state and asks them all the same question: What’s the Drag? It’s a pretty delightful mix of gender theory, LGBTQIA history, and more than dash of humor to make it all go down. 

Yuanna Wen

How does a young queen do it? It must be all that youthful energy, because this old little bird could never. In addition to her show touring nationwide, Yuanna Wen has started a charity, Yuanna Friend , which is just as sappy and sweet as it sounds, providing support to homeless LGBTQIA youth in the form of housing, food banks, and tuition assistance. Currently operating out of Yiling, she has plans to expand the charity to other cities by the end of the year.

Sandu Shengshou

Sandu Shengshou is a dancing queen to her core, and so it should come as no surprise that she is continuing to run the Lotus Pier Dance Academy as the primary instructor and choreographer. Word on the street is that she was approached by a certain streaming service with a series offer to showcase her competitive dance team on their way to Nationals, where they’re hoping to grab their 3rd consecutive title. No word yet on whether she’s accepted, but a Songbird can dream.

Minge Gay

Alas, sometimes a queen puts on her wig and size 16 biscuit cutters for the last time. Minge Gay announced shortly after the finale that she was retiring from drag, stating that, “I had a good run, and I love every moment of it. But I’ve made my mark and said what I had to say. It’s time to make room for a younger generation.”

Although she may no longer be performing, Minge Gay is still staying close to the scene, acting as mentor and teacher to new drag talent and continuing to manage and expand the Nie family. “Drag comes and goes,” Minge Gay says. “But motherhood is forever.”

Jiggy Stardust

Ah, the Dimpled Diva of the Drag Race Divide herself. Jiggy Stardust has been laying low since the finale, though word of her doings have been leaking through the internet. Nothing is confirmed, but speculation runs rampant about Jiggy’s maybe-maybe-not involvement in this season’s sabotage. I’m not saying anything for certain (and birdy wouldn’t want to get sued), but a certain lady was seen exiting the JinLinTV station as a part of Jin Guangshan’s retinue. Given recent events at JinLinCO, maybe someone should tell her to exercise some caution. 

For more dish on Jiggy, go check out my Interview with a Secret Sister, wherein I sat down with Qin Su (Jiggy Stardust’s episode 10 drag doppelganger) to get the dirty deets on what exactly went down on the Drag Race set. I promise you, the tea is PIPING. 

Fangela

Some people believe in success being big and showy, and some prefer to bask more quietly in their riches and fame. Since the Finale, Fangela has returned to her regular gig at her homebase club in Qinghe, though the crowds are somewhat bigger than before.

Says the queen, “I never really wanted to be a drag superstar in the first place. Seems like a lot of work. But nothing wrong with a little income boost for making my art.”

The Yiling Patriarch

Oh boy, I can’t do this one all on its own. So let’s bring her in, folks:

… and Hanguang Jun

I’m here to answer the question that you’ve all been dying to know: was that kiss a stunt, or was it real?

Well, my canaries, brace yourselves. Because what’s that I hear? Why, it’s our first ever Gusu’s Drag Race wedding bells!

That’s right! The Yiling Patriarch and Hanguang Jun made it official official two weeks ago after they jetted off together for “a little getaway” and came back sporting matching rings and declaring they were married!

The pair eloped in Gusu, where it’s rumored that Zewu Jun, Sandu Shengshou and Lan Qiren were in attendance. My invitation must’ve been lost in the mail. But speaking of Lan Qiren …

Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren

It’s the end of an era. 

Following the season finale, Lan Qiren and Baoshan Sanren announced that they would be stepping down as the hosts and judges of Gusu’s Drag Race. 

“It was time,” Baoshan Sanren said in a statement to the press. “The show has done great things for the community, but at some point the formula starts to have the opposite effect. Drag shouldn’t be boxed into just what makes for good television, and it shouldn’t just be about satisfying the limited tastes of the judges. Drag should always be bigger than a single show and the opinions of a few people.”

Said Lan Qiren of the decision: “I could no longer in good conscience participate in Gusu’s Drag Race. A person must always strive to act morally. My morals and those of the show’s producers and the network are no longer in alignment, therefore it is time for me to move on.”

It remains unknown what the future holds for Gusu’s Drag Race, or either of the imitable judges, but I for one wish them a bright future and the best of luck!

 

Which leads me to my announcement. Excuse me for a moment, while I wax poetic.

The time has come, the Songbird said,
      To rest my weary wings—
Neither shoes nor lips nor wigs nor drag—
      Nor the cattiness of queens—
Not even tea that’s boiling hot—
      Shall make this Songbird sing.

O canaries, said the Songbird,
      We’ve had a pleasant run!
But my wings must take me home again,
      I have no rumors left: there’s none!
And this is scarcely odd because
      I’ve told you everyone one!

I will be hanging up my hat on my Drag Race career. It’s been a wild ride, but for me it’s come to an end. What’s next for the Songbird? Don’t ask me, I’m sure I don’t know! But I hope to see you there.

Until we meet again, my canaries.
~Songbird

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